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Covid-19: As world battles fresh spike, India emerging as global pharmacy

Covid-19: As world battles fresh spike, India emerging as global pharmacy


Virendra Pandit


New Delhi: While some countries are battling against a fresh outbreak of Covid-19, India is emerging as a global hub for manufacturing vaccines developed by other countries, primarily the UK and Russia—with billions of does in the pipeline for 2021.

Hyderabad, in particular, is emerging as the world’s vaccine capital.

India’ ongoing domestic vaccination program depends on two vaccines: Covishield, the Oxford University-AstraZeneca developed vaccine manufactured under license by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India Ltd (SII), and Covaxin, indigenously developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd. India has also provided millions of doses to nearly 70 countries under three different categories.

Some more Indian pharmaceutical companies have signed up to contract manufacture foreign-developed vaccines, particularly a Russian job, to boost the global vaccination drive.

Hyderabad-headquartered Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), which recently completed Phase 3 clinical trials of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, has applied for emergency use approval in India. It will supply 100 million doses of this vaccine this year.

Also, Hyderabad-based Gland Pharma has signed a pact with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to supply 252 million doses of Sputnik V for India and more doses for export to 51 countries.

This is part of the Russian sovereign wealth fund’s efforts to increase manufacturing capacities in India to augment domestic and global supplies, according to reports.

Another Hyderabad-based company, Hetero Drugs Ltd, will manufacture 100 million jabs of Sputnik V.

Bengaluru’s Strides Pharma Science said on Friday that its unit Stelis Biopharma has also partnered with RDIF to manufacture at least 200 million doses of the Sputnik V. With this, India’s total production of this Russian vaccine will be more than half-a-billion doses, making the country biggest producer of Sputnik V outside Russia.

Sputnik V is reported to have shown a 91.6 percent efficacy in clinical trials, much higher than that of Covishield (53 percent if the two doses are administered four weeks apart, or up to 79 percent with a 12-week gap)  and Covaxin (80.6 percent efficacy, according to interim data from Phase 3 clinical trials), the two vaccines approved so far by New Delhi.

The Russian vaccine is being reviewed in India for emergency use authorization. DRL will market it in India. This vaccine, in a dry form, requires a minus-18 degree Celsius temperature to remain stable.

According to reports, China’s Fosun-backed Gland Pharma is expected to commence production in the third quarter of 2021 for estimated deliveries starting from the fourth quarter.

In November 2020, Kirill Dimitriev, CEO, RDIF, had said that the firm wanted to supply one billion doses globally thro­ugh contract manufacturing partnerships with companies in India, China, Brazil, South Korea, Hungary, and some other countries.

Sputnik V, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, had become the world’s first registered Covid-19 vaccine based on the human adenoviral vector platform. It has been approved in 22 countries, with the RDIF signing supply deals with over 13 countries.



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