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Mumbai: Haffkine approaches Sputnik and J&J for manufacturing Covid vaccine

To expand its manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccine, state-owned Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited has now approached Sputnik and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) expressing their interest (EoI) for the same
By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUN 11, 2021 11:56 PM IST

To expand its manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccine, state-owned Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited has now approached Sputnik and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) expressing their interest (EoI) for the same.

The Maharashtra government has allowed the Haffkine Corporation to hold talks with other firms for manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine.

With the help of Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, it is expected to start manufacturing Covaxin, the first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine in the next eight months, and has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with them recently.

“We have written to Johnson & Johnson and Sputnik expressing our interest in manufacturing their vaccine sometime back. Our follow up with them is on. They will study our report and will let us know,” Dr Sandeep Rathod, managing director, Haffkine Institute, confirmed the development.

Haffkine is already working to produce 228 million doses of Covaxin vaccine in a year. For this, it is setting up a Biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory at its premises at Parel in central Mumbai, which is likely to take a few months.

In January, the institute had sought permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), for the transfer of technology from Bharat Biotech. The ICMR and Bharat Biotech had co-developed the Covaxin, which was granted emergency use authorisation “in clinical trial mode” by India’s drugs regulator on January 3. Haffkine received approval from the department of biotechnology of the ministry of science and technology on April 15. Following this, the state government too approved the project on April 28. While doing so, it has also been allowed to hold talks with other firms manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine for expanding its production, the officials said.

The state granted 94 crore for the project while the Centre too approved a grant of 65 crore under Covid Suraksha Yojana.

Haffkine Corporation is a subsidiary of Haffkine Institute for Training, Research and Testing, owned by the state government.

Haffkine Institute is one of the oldest biomedical research institutes in the country. It was established in 1899 by Dr Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine, an originally Russian microbiologist, who was deputed to then-Bombay to help authorities tackle the Bubonic plague outbreak in 1896. Haffkine started the Plague Research Laboratory and developed a vaccine that he first tested on himself and his assistant. The vaccine was then rolled out to inmates of a Byculla prison – all of whom survived the epidemic and did not contract the plague.

The vaccine was then rolled out among the Parsis, one of the first communities that agreed to be vaccinated en masse. The microbiologist is also credited for having developed an anti-cholera vaccine. The laboratory, which was opened in the Governor’s official residence in Parel – a site it has occupied since then – was renamed Haffkine Institute in 1925.

The multi-disciplinary institute is engaged in training, research and testing of various aspects of infectious diseases. It is credited with developing several prophylactics in the recent past too, including the anti-rabies serum, anti-venom serum, and the oral polio vaccine.

To expand the production activities and to meet the growing demands for medicines and lifesaving drugs, the Maharashtra government bifurcated the Haffkine Institute in 1975. Production of vaccines was entrusted to Haffkine Bio Pharmaceuticals Corporation Limited, a state-owned firm.

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