COVID-19 cases in India have crossed the 2.66 lakh-mark today. This was reported after the biggest one-day surge of 9,987 cases that came out yesterday. The primary reason could be the easing of curbs after a prolonged lock down period. And the global COVID-19 cases have crossed the mark of 7 million today.India is among the largest Manufacturer of vaccines and Generic drugs in the world. It is inhabited by around half a dozen major vaccine makers in the world and also has some smaller ones. They are all involved in making vaccines against diseases like Polio, Pneumonia, Rota virus, Meningitis, BCG, Mumps, Rubella and Measles, among other diseases.
Currently, we have seven Indian companies working towards COVID-19 vaccine development. Thereby they have joined the global endeavor to find a quick preventive measure for the fatal virus infection. And it needs to be faster to prevent the virus spreading rapidly across the world.
Breaking down the Virus
Drug and vaccine industry experts believe the genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus provided by scientists in China clearly shows it shares 79 per cent similarity in the genetic material as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and around 50 per cent with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which also affects humans, bats and camels. This solid information allows developers to use the foundation work already created in research for vaccines for these viruses. An important feature of the vaccine development system for COVID-19 is the range of technology platforms being analysed, including virus-like particle, inactivated virus approaches, nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) and live weakened virus.
Why COVID-19 vaccine is so important?
Unless and until we have a vaccine for COVID-19, sheltering-in-place measures and social distancing are the most efficient ways to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. Vaccines have greatly increased the average life expectancy. The importance of COVID-19 vaccine can be deciphered from the fact that when you receive a vaccination, your body develops an immune response to an altered or weakened virus. This happens because your body builds up antibodies so if you’re exposed to that particular virus in future your body can fight it off before you develop an infection.
Companies working on COVID-19 vaccine
1. Zydus Cadila
Ahmadabad-based Indian pharmaceutical giant Cadila Healthcare/Zydus Cadila has emerged as a big leader at the forefront of India’s battle to fight the COVID-19 virus. The research team at Zydus Cadila is constantly working towards an accelerated vaccine research programme which can fight against COVID-19.
Zydus has adopted a two-pronged approach for the development of a vaccine which includes a DNA based vaccine and secondly a live attenuated recombinant vaccine to combat the virus. Previously Zydus Cadila was researching on two vaccine prototypes, the work on ramping up the production of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and development of rapid diagnostic kits. But now the company is also exploring the use of a biologic drug Interferon alfa-2b to treat the COVID-19 virus.
2.Serum Institute of India
The Pune based 50-year-old vaccine giant Serum Institute of India has left behind all other Pharma companies in its fight against the COVID-19 virus. On June 4, British drug maker AstraZeneca declared that it has partnered with Serum Institute of India to supply 1 billion doses of University of Oxford’s potential COVID-19 vaccine firstly to low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). And according to this deal, Serum will provide 400 million doses before the end of 2020 as a part of the agreement. Now the significance of this partnership is that if all goes well according to the plan, millions of Indians will get access to the COVID-19 vaccine shots produced by Serum Institute way before the end of 2020.
3.Bharat Biotech International limited
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL) has collaborated with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. In this collaboration, ICMR will provide continuous support to BBIL for vaccine COVID-19 vaccine development. Both the firms are working towards seeking fast-track approvals to accelerate vaccine development in India. This will include clinical evaluation of candidate vaccine and subsequent animal studies, all of which will be completely indigenous to India.
4.Indian immunological’s Limited
Indian Immunologicals Limited which is a Hyderabad based pharmaceutical company, is one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world. They have collaborated with the Griffith University of Australia to develop Covid-19 vaccine using the latest codon De-optimization technology. According to a statement released by the company the vaccine has the potential to provide long-lasting protection with just a single-dose administration. Moreover, the vaccine will come with an anticipated safety profile similar to other licensed vaccines used for active Immunisation.
Mynvax is a Bangalore based biotechnology startup involved in making next-generation flu vaccines in India. This startup is situated at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. It has also taken up the responsibility of beating COVID-19 virus and is developing an indigenous vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infections. It anticipates the vaccine to be ready in about 18 months. To pace up and scale up the entire process, Mynvax has applied for Rs 15 crore in funding from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).
6. Auro vaccines and Gennova Bio pharmaceuticals
Recently Hyderabad-based Auro Vaccines and Pune’s Gennova Bio pharmaceuticals are the latest to announce their entry into making the COVID-19 vaccine. Both the companies have approached the Department of Biotechnology with their respective vaccine candidates and are looking forward to a quick response.
Also to support Atmanirbhar Bharat government has allocated Rs 100 crores from the PM-CARES (Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations) Fund to support the companies to develop a novel Corona Virus vaccine. The entire funds will be utilized under the supervision of Principal Scientific Advisor, K Vijay Raghavan.