Serum Institute eyes COVID-19 vaccine by October

It is being developed by University of Oxford; clinical trials in India soon, says CEO.

Updated - April 25, 2020 09:12 am IST

Published - April 24, 2020 10:54 pm IST - Pune

City-based Serum Institute of India has said that it expects the vaccine for coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) developed by the University of Oxford in the market by October or November provided the safety and efficacy of the product is established during trials.

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The institute has partnered with the Oxford vaccine project as one of the seven global institutions that will manufacture the vaccine.

“In around two weeks, we can produce five million doses a month and scale that up to 10 million after six months while typically producing a vaccine takes a long time,” SII CEO Adar Poonawala told CNBC-TV18.

Observing that there were a lot of people who thought that they would have a vaccine in a few months, Mr. Poonawalla said there was, however, a strong caveat.

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“If the vaccine works in the U.K. trial and we do another trial in India, which we are hoping to start shortly, in safety and efficacy, only then will it be available by October or November and that is only if we start producing at our personal cost in risk by the end of this month,” he said.

Further, he said the institute would be using one of the existing facilities for manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccine , “However, it will take over two years to set up new manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine,” he added.

“Typically vaccines take many years but with the regulatory approvals in India that have been very carefully changed for this product development, we are very pleased to announce that we will be able to do it by the end of this year,” Mr. Poonawalla said.

SII is currently looking at 4-5 million doses monthly and would start manufacturing early to save time in the hope that the trial would be successful. “So, we hope to build up 20-40 million doses by September-October in the hope that if the trial works, then we will have this product,” he said.

Mr. Poonawalla said SII would be partnering with ICMR for the clinical trials and that he was in touch with the Department of Biotechnology.

Talking about the decision and the risks involved, Mr. Poonawala said: “We are not a listed company and we are not accountable for our actions to investors in terms of pure profits and returns. So, I was able to make this decision and take this risk on at the cost of our other vaccines that we are putting aside temporarily so that we can build up the scale here.”

Mr. Poonawalla said that the manufacturing plant in Pune would have an investment of ₹500-600 crore.

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