Amidst the horrific second wave of Corona, people want to get vaccinated as soon as possible. However, vaccine production is low. Two vaccines manufactured in the country are still being planted, while efforts are being made to include imported Sputnik V vaccines in the program soon. The Central Government has launched Mission Kovid Security for vaccination, which is being handled by Dr. Renu Swaroop, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology. In an e-mail interview with Bureau Chief of Hindustan Madan Jada, he shared many information about increasing the availability of vaccines and new vaccines.
Why are not more companies being given a chance to increase vaccine production?
Potential vaccine manufacturers from the private and public sector have been identified to increase production of covaxine. Negotiations are now underway to transfer the technology of Bharat Biotech to these manufacturers. Technology will be given to qualified manufacturers soon.
Sputnik V vaccine has been approved. Import has started, but when will it start production in the country?
The vaccine has started reaching the country. A consignment has arrived. Soon it will also be introduced to be included in the vaccination program. By the end of this month, 3 million more Sputnik vaccine supplements will arrive in India. Apart from this, negotiations are going on with five other companies apart from Reddy Laboratory to start production of this vaccine in the country. These include Hetero bioforma, Virchov biotech, Stellis bioforma, Gland biopharma and Panacea biotech. Our effort is that from July, the country-wide Sputnik V vaccine will be started.
What about other vaccines?
Three vaccines have been approved for emergencies. Five vaccines are in different stages of clinical trials. Of these, Zydus Cadila’s DNA vaccine and Biological E’s recombinant vaccine are undergoing Phase III trials. The mRNA vaccine of Genova Biopharmaceuticals and Bharat Biotech’s nasal vaccine are in the first phase of clinical trials. In addition, the Serum Institute of India has started Phase III Breezing Clinical Trials of Recombinant Nanoparticle Vaccine developed by Novavax. It is expected that these vaccines will also be available soon.
Are there any plans to upgrade Kovishield and Kovaxin in view of the new variant of Corona?
New variant activations that have been found are being genome sequencing regularly. This work is being done by DBT-ILS, DBT-RCB, CSIR-CCMB laboratories under the Indian SARS Cove-2 Genomic Consortium. Studies have also been conducted on the effect of the vaccine on the new variant, and preliminary results suggest that both vaccines are effective against the new variant. Detailed studies are still going on in this direction, which will give an idea of their efficacy against the new variant.
The WTO is likely to remove patents from Corona vaccines, but it is unclear whether companies would be willing to transfer the technology. In such a situation, will our companies be able to manufacture vaccines like mRNAs anew?
Why not, Jinova Biopharma has already prepared the mRNA vaccine. Its trials are underway. Vaccines appear to produce excellent immunity in non-human trials. This vaccine can be stored at a temperature of 2–8 degrees. Phase I trials are underway, which will be completed by mid-June. Genova Biopharmaceuticals has developed the capacity to produce 10 million doses per month since September after the completion of the remaining trials.
When will the children’s vaccine arrive?
Children’s immune system functions differently and responds more strongly than adults. Therefore the vaccine dose for children is different. Globally, Pfizer and Mordana have begun trials of their vaccines for children aged between 12-18 years and six months to 11 years. In this regard, Bharat Biotech has been allowed to conduct clinical trials in children of covaxine in the country. This test will be done on children between 2-18 years of age.
What is the progress towards making Corona medicines?
The Department of Biotechnology has also taken several initiatives in the direction of making medicines. Second phase human trials of AQCH, a drug made from medicinal and aromatic plants, are underway. Similarly studies are being done on a drug based on human monoclonal antibodies. Veerafin, a drug supported by DBT, has recently received limited emergency use approval.
When will the nasal vaccine arrive?
The vaccine has been developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the University of Washington. It is an adenovirus vectors based vaccine. It is a nasal single dose vaccine. Pre-clinical studies have been completed. In March, it was allowed for the first phase of clinical trials. Based on the results of these tests, the second and third phase tests will now be allowed. There is a possibility that the tests will start later this month or next month.