India’s Serum Institute, the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world by volume, could be the key to production of Covid-19 vaccines. This institute is currently working with a number of candidates for a vaccine for the novel coronavirus – which includes the potentially mass-producing the AstraZeneca/Oxford university vaccine which is advanced stages of human trial and has hence attracted global headlines. The Indian company is also working its own vaccine.
Therefore there is a high chance that when a vaccine is ultimately developed against the disease, chances are that Serum Institute will be closely involved in many of them.
Umesh Shaligram, the head of research and development of the Serum Institute, is leading the efforts at the company that is privately held. According to reports, every day, shortly before midnight, he gets a WhatsApp message from the Indian government seeking any updates on a possible vaccine and is asked about any troubles he or the company is facing.
According to reports, the WhatApp messages come from K. VijayRaghavan, the top scientific adviser to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This reflects the importance – and even the criticality of attached to the race for development of a vaccine for the disease.
In reply to the WhatsApp messages, a progress report and details any bottlenecks are promptly updated by Shaligram.
“Any delays, you just tell them,” said Shaligram. He added that everything in the capacity of the Indian government is being done to fast-track clearances and settle any chances of import delays and other roadblocks.
“We have begun to see approvals come through in days, even on a Sunday night, for trials and things like that,” he said, noting some of these processes typically took 4 to 6 months.
In the case of development of a vaccine, typically most of the attention goes to the pharmaceutical developer. Serum Institute’s the Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said that in this case, an away from the spotlight and under the radar role is being played by India by producing between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of all vaccines that are currently sold globally and the role of the Serum Institute is that of a leader in this field.
Work is at full swing at the 150-acre campus of the company in the Western Indian city of Pune with hundreds of workers being ferried to and from the campus each day in dozens of buses, even as the city where it is situated is still in a lockdown.
With the number of cases of Cvoid-19 rising daily globally as well as in India, world leaders apparently have more or less reconciled to the fact that fact that a vaccine for Covid-19 is the only real way to restart their stalled economies.
No vaccine has yet proven to be effective against the coronavirus.
Scientists, drugmakers and manufacturers were collaborating at an unparalleled scale to spur development and availability, said Poonawalla, whose family owns the vaccine maker.
“We are all in a race to battle the disease, there is no one-upmanship here,” he said in an interview to Reuters.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)