Hyderabad’s Biological E set for Covid vaccine rollout by August
As the country grapples with the second wave of Covid-19, vaccine maker Biological E is gearing up to churn out 75 to 80 million doses per month of its recombinant protein vaccine candidate from August this year. The company also says it will be one of the most affordable vaccines in the country. Biological E’s managing director Mahima Datla indicated as much in an exclusive interview to TOI when she said: “I am not at liberty to share it (pricing) yet because we are still working on it, but I can assure you it will be among the most affordable Covid-19 vaccines that you can get a hold of.”
She added that the company certainly won’t take advantage of the situation. “We’re third generation in this business,” she said. “Covid did not make us enter into this business and we pride ourselves on having made vaccines accessible in pre-pandemic times to countries that needed it the most.”
Dr Maria Elena Bottazi, associate dean, National School of Tropical Medicine (NSTM) at Texas-based Baylor College of Medicine, which is collaborating with Biological E for the vaccine, has been quoted as saying that the subunit vaccine, which is modelled after the hepatitis B vaccine, uses traditional technology and is cheap to produce at only about $1.5 (Rs 110 approx) per dose.
Datla’s assurance on affordable pricing comes at a time when vaccine pricing has become a political issue. After being criticised, the central government had to ask both Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) to cut their prices for state governments. On being able to churn out 75-80 million doses per month right from the start, Datla said: “It’s a significant capacity and we have already scaled up. We have confidence in our manufacturing capabilities to be able to deliver that number from August onwards.”
“We are well-resourced in terms of capacities, both for fill-finish and bulk antigen. We are focusing on hunkering down and getting our vaccines through to the finish line and making sure that we’re able to deliver capacities…” she added. Bio E’s vaccine rollout could help substantially ease the vaccine crunch that is currently hampering the country’s vaccination drive.
Apart from Covaxin and Covishield, Russian vaccine Sputnik V, which is priced at $10 globally, has received emergency use authorisation but India would initially have to rely on imports as local manufacturing of the vaccine is slated to begin only in the July-September quarter. Currently, Biological E is busy with preparations for phase III trials of the two-dose vaccine on 1,268 healthy volunteers in the 18-80 years age group at 15 centres across the country as part of a larger global study. Apart from the two-dose recombinant protein vaccine Bio E also has a tie-up with Johnson & Johnson for making 600 million doses of the latter’s single shot Covid-19 vaccine — Ad26.COV2.S — in India.
Source – TimesOfIndia