A look at Serum Institute, its CEO Adar Poonawalla as world awaits Covid-19 vaccine
Cyrus Poonawalla of Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine producer by the number of doses manufactured, entered the Forbes List of India’s 100 richest that was released amid the outbreak of Covid-19.
Cyrus Poonawalla was at the sixth spot on the coveted list. “Amid the Covid-19 pandemic which hit India hard and led to a sharp economic contraction, half of the nation’s 100 richest on the 2020 Forbes India Rich List saw gains,” Forbes said.
Cyrus Poonawalla’s son Adar Poonawalla is the current CEO of SII. He joined the company his father started in 1966, after graduating from the University of Westminster in 2001.
SII has been in the spotlight for the past few months as it is to manufacture the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and AstraZeneca in India. It began trials in the country in August-end and in last week of September, the third phase of human clinical trial began at the state-run Sassoon General Hospital in Pune.
On September 26, Poonawalla tweeted whether the Indian government would have Rs 80,000 crore available over the next one year because that is the amount which is required to buy and distribute vaccine everyone in the country.
A day later, he applauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision. “We share and applaud your vision @narendramodi ji, on providing vaccines to the global community. It is a proud moment for India, thank you for your leadership and support. It is clear that all your arrangements for India will take care of all needs for the Indian people,” he said.
After overcoming a hurdle on September 10, when the trials had to be paused in India a day after the United Kingdom-based developers announced a global halt of the human experiments because a patient developed a potentially serious condition, SII has got back to planning around manufacturing and distributing the vaccine once it is ready. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) gave approval to the institute a week later to resume the trials.
“The permission has been given to restart the trials with certain conditions,” said a senior official aware of the developments in the DCGI office. “Extra care during screening, additional information [for] informed consent and close monitoring for similar events during the study follow-up would need to be followed,” DGCI said.
According to Adar Poonawalla, the SII is to produce one billion doses of the vaccine candidate which is among the front-runners in the fight against coronavirus.
In September, the institute claimed that it along with along with Gavi and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will manufacture an additional up to 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for India and low- and middle-income countries, according to news agency PTI.
The latest collaboration between the partners brings the total number of vaccine doses to be covered to an aggregate of up to 200 million doses, SII said in a statement.
Another recent statement that put Poonawalla under the spotlight was his response to a tweet by film producer Ronnie Screwvala. Screwvala had tweeted about a special quota of Covid-19 vaccine for Parsis. “More than enough” doses of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca will be kept for the Parsi community, Poonawalla replied.
He, however, did not specify the quantity of the doses that will be kept for the community which is grappling with shrinking population.
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