Bharat Biotech ties up with US varsity for Covid vaccine
Bharat Biotech has partnered with the US-based Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) to develop its experimental vaccine Coravax against Covid-19 under the accelerated development programme.Updated: May 21, 2020 02:52 IST
Bharat Biotech has partnered with the US-based Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) to develop its experimental vaccine Coravax against Covid-19 under the accelerated development programme.
This is the third vaccine candidates that the Hyderabad-based vaccine major is working on using two different platforms.
One uses the nasal flu backbone to deliver Sars-CoV2 genetic material to produce an immune response, while two use the deactivated rabies vaccine as a vector.
The new viral-vector vaccine candidate, which was developed by TJU researchers in January, has recently completed preliminary trials in animal models that show a strong antibody response in vaccinated mice. The data on whether it protects vaccinated animals against Sars-CoV-2 is expected next month.
The vaccine uses a proven deactivated rabies vaccine as a carrier for the genetic code of the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein, which the virus uses to enter human cells and cause infection.
The rabies vaccine has been shown to generate a rigorous but safe immune reaction that confers lifelong protection. “Since we know the immune system reacts to the rabies vaccine with a strong response, when we add the coronavirus component, we expect to see that level of protection and immune memory carry over to the Sars-CoV-2 viral protein as well,” said Matthias Schnell, director of Jefferson Vaccine Center in Philadelphia.
Bharat Biotech is the world’s largest supplier of rabies vaccines and the rabies carrier vaccine being used is approved for use in the whole population, including children and pregnant women.
“We are particularly excited about this technology since the basic proof of concept has been established while using it for other pandemic infectious diseases. Bharat Biotech will be involved in an end-to-end development of the vaccine, including comprehensive clinical trials to achieve commercial licensure,” said Dr Krishna Mohan, CEO, Bharat Biotech.
With support from the Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology, the company plans to begin human trials by December 2020.
Global efforts to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 are proceeding at an unprecedented pace and scale, with companies using established platforms and parallel vaccine development phases to fast-track development. Vaccine development, from lab to market, on average takes a decade.
Scientists are using a massive range of new technology platforms for vaccine development, including nucleic acid (DNA and RNA), virus-like particles, peptides, viral vectors (replicating and non-replicating), recombinant proteins, live attenuated virus and inactivated virus approaches, many of which have never before been used to develop vaccines that are currently licenced for use.
Around 25 groups are working on viral-vector vaccines, in which a virus such as rabies or adenovirus is genetically engineered so it can produce coronavirus proteins within the body without causing disease.
“Most vaccine development focuses on identifying the genetic code of the spike protein that Sars-CoV-2 uses to enter human cells, which is then used in the vaccine to trigger an immune response against subsequent exposure in people who are vaccinated. The Bharat Biotech project is moving very fast,” said Dr NK Ganguly, former director general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
“Our partnership with Bharat Biotech will accelerate our vaccine candidate through the next phases of development and we be able to complete animal testing and move to phase-1 clinical trial rapidly,” said Schnell, whose centre has previously used this approach to confer strong immunity in animal models against coronaviruses that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome and middle eastern respiratory syndrome.
Under the licence agreement, Bharat Biotech gains exclusive rights to develop, market and deliver Jefferson’s vaccine across the world, excluding in the US, Europe, and Japan, where Jefferson continues to seek partners.
The other potential vaccines that have Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (Birac) funding are Bharat Biotech’s second rabies vector vaccine that being developed in partnership with ICMR-National Institute of Virology in Pune, and Ahmedabad-based Cadila Pharmaceuticals vaccine project that uses recombinant DNA technology.
Birac is also supporting Pune-based Serum Institute of India’s phase III trials to determine whether the vaccine candidate, VPM1002, which was developed against tuberculosis by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, also protects against Sars-CoV-2.