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COVID-19 Vaccine Research: How India Is Gearing Up to Foster Legacy of Being ‘Pharmacy of the World’

Image used for representational purpose (Photo Credits: IANS)

The world is racing to develop a vaccine from the moment it was clear that we were facing a global pandemic. At such a time of healthcare crises, India has come to the forefront combining research, academia and skills of virologists to develop vaccines.

Dr. R.R Gangakhedkar head of epidemiology and communicable disease at ICMR said, “Normally the entire process from discovery to vaccine being marketed used to take 10 years time. Now due to certain changes in regulatory approaches the time has reduced to 1-2 years of time” which is a huge achievement.” COVID-19 Vaccine Race: China’s Sinovac Sure of ‘99% Success’, Targets Release by 2021-End; Moderna Begins 2nd Phase of Clinical Trials.

India, the ‘Pharmacy of the world’ produces 60% of the vaccines in the world and is the third largest producer of Drugs. It accounts to 60-80% of the UN’s annual vaccine procurement and is the source of 60,000 generic drug brands. With this humongous capacity, Indian companies are helping to produce and distribute vaccines to the world turning the 2021 Coronavirus pandemic into an opportunity for strengthening vaccine diplomacy.

India’s Rapidly Growing Presence in Pharmaceuticals

On India’s legacy of successfully charting out vaccines, Professor K Vijayraghavan, principal scientific advisor to the Government of India said, “If we look at three essential vaccines that every child in the world should get, two of them are made in India”.

For over 50 years, the country has emerged as a major player in pharmaceuticals. In 1969, Indian pharmaceuticals had a share of 5% in the market in India while global pharma had a share of 95% of Indian market. For 2021, it was the reverse with Indian pharmaceuticals gaing 95% share and global pharmaceuticals settling at 5% share in Indian market. COVID-19 Vaccine Human Trials May Begin in at Least 6 Months, Says India’s Top Medical Body.

The Indian pharmaceuticals industry is growing at a rate of 7-8% a year.According to Indian Pharmaceuticals alliance, the rating agency ICRA projects growth at the rate of 11-13% in 2021.

The country is home to over 3000 Pharma companies with a strong network of 10,500 manufacturing facilities. The country’s export pharmaceutical worth was $ 19.4 billion in 2018-19.

Due to comparatively lower cost of manufacturing, companies are interested to manufacture in India. Cost of manufacturing pharmaceuticals is 33% lower in India as compared to US.

Key Players in India for Vaccine Development

India with its capacity is aiming to endogenously developed vaccine the work for which has already begun. On May 13th, homegrown Cipla ltd said it has signed a licensing agreement with Gilead Sciences Inc for manufacturing and distribution of investigational drug Remdesvir, a potential therapy for covid-19. GSK to Produce 1 Billion Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Next Year.

India is working on indegenous vaccines and forging international collaborations. For instance, ICMR has tied up with Bharat Biotech Limited for vaccine development. “ We are the first company to develop a pandemic flu vaccine in 2009. In 2011 we developed the Chikungunya vaccine and were the first to develop a vaccine for Zika virus. With this successful history we ought to now prepare a vaccine for Coronavirus too” said Dr. Krishna Ella CMD of Bharat Biotech. The Serum institute is another leading contender for developing vaccine which normally produces over a crore dose of vaccine in a year.

Other collaborative endeavors for homegrown vaccine development include – Startup- Mynvax working with IISC Begaluru; Indian Immunologicals limited developing vaccine with Australian university; Zydus developing vaccine through research arm in Europe; Akers Biosciences and Premas Biotech announcing successful completion of vaccine prototype.

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