Indian firm makes Covid-19 vaccine for Oxford trials; DBT also funds three home-grown vaccines against the pandemic
New Delhi, April 24: Indian vaccine maker Serum Institute of India will manufacture a new Covid-19 vaccine for a crucial clinical trial being carried out by the researchers at Oxford University.
The vaccine is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees that has been genetically tweaked in such a way that it is impossible to grow in humans. To this virus, the scientists have further added genes to help the body identify a Covid-19 infection and put up a defence against the rampaging virus.
“SII will be manufacturing the vaccine in anticipation of clinical trials succeeding by September – October in the UK. The vaccine will not be made available to the public in two-three weeks as suggested in some media reports,” the company said in a statement.
The Oxford product (ChAdOx1 n-Cov-19) is one of the forerunners of the Covid-19 shots being developed around the world. More than 1,100 participants are to be recruited in study sites in Oxford, Southampton, London and Bristol to evaluate the vaccine that was found safe for use in humans.
The company said it decided to produce the vaccine at its own risk to have a jump start on the manufacturing so that enough doses become available, if the trials work.
With funding support from the Department of Biotechnology, the SII would also initiate a phase-3 clinical trial of recombinant BCG vaccine among high-risk Covid-19 patients.
The DBT approval came earlier this week following scientific observations that nations that offer BCG vaccine to the newborns have lower Covid-19 caseloads and deaths.
“It is an astute observation that in countries with universal infant BCG, there is less transmission and death than in countries without universal BCG. This question is being investigated in Germany and Australia. We shall wait and see their results,” commented T Jacob John, an eminent virologist and retired professor of clinical virology in Christian Medical College Vellore.
Under the National Biopharma Mission, the DBT has also funded Cadila Healthcare Ltd for a DNA vaccine candidate and Bharat Biotech for its inactivated rabies vector platform-based vaccine candidate.
The three vaccine projects are among the 16 programmes that DBT approved for funding to develop (or repurpose) vaccines, diagnostics and drugs to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.