Serum Institute of India CEO: ‘We plan to make millions of doses of Covid vaccine over three months’
JULY 18, 2020
Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by the number of doses produced and sold globally (more than 1.5 billion doses), has partnered with AstraZeneca to support efforts for a vaccine against Covid-19. It has also got the DCGI go-ahead to manufacture its own indigenously developed pneumococcal vaccine. Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla speaks to Anuradha Mascarenhas about their efforts to develop these vaccines.
How long will it take for a vaccine against Covid-19 to be made available?
It will be a long time before everyone gets a vaccine because of the number of doses that needs to be administered. This includes challenges in administering the doses in all parts of the world and it may not necessarily mean that the first vaccine that is licensed is the best one. There are many different scientific approaches being taken to make the Covid-19 vaccine and we will have to wait and see which is the best vaccine to be given to the world.
Serum Institute has partnered with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to support Oxford University’s efforts for a vaccine against Covid-19. How promising are the results of clinical trials and what are the plans at Serum Institute?
Among the leading vaccine candidates is the AstraZeneca product, to which Serum has committed hundreds of millions of dollars. We would not have done that if we did not believe in the AstraZeneca vaccine. Regarding the AstraZeneca product, an announcement will be made in two to three days. We should wait for that and then comment on the phase 1 trials they have conducted. I cannot comment on the amount of doses we have made so far, but we plan to make millions of doses over the next three months after we get the manufacturing license. We have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in Capex and Opex to start producing the vaccine.
VPM1002, which is also produced by Serum Institute, is part of clinical trials to assess if these anti-TB shots can be a gamechanger in the fight against Covid. What is the present status?
The VPM BCG vaccine for TB is undergoing clinical trials. More than 1,000 patients have been vaccinated and in two months we will know whether it significantly reduces the severity of Covid or not.
Serum Institute has become the first to manufacture an indigenously developed pneumococcal vaccine. Earlier the demand was met by licensed importers. How long did the process take?
This is a pneumococcal polysaccharide conjugate vaccine that took five years to develop and conduct multi-centric global trials before it was licensed. This is typically how long vaccines take. The vaccine is used for active immunization against invasive disease and pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumonia in infants. The DCGI looked at the evidence from human trials to allow the first fully indigenously developed Pneumococcal Polysacch-aride Conjugate Vaccine for marketing in India. Serum Institute had first obtained the approval of DCGI to conduct Phase I, Phase II and Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine which were concluded. After reviewing clinical data, on July 14 SII was granted permission to manufacture the first domestically developed pneumococcal polysaccharide conjugate vaccine.
According to WHO, pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children worldwide. How many doses will India require?
India requires 70-80 million doses. Initially in the private market there will be demand for 10 million doses, for which there are other players like Pfizer, GSK, and there are government tenders which will probably procure 50-60 million doses over the next two to three years. There is also a global demand of another 100 million doses that we will slowly try to fill over the next two to three years.