ICMR will develop indigenous vaccine to treat Covid-19
India has taken the first step in developing the first make-in-India vaccine against coronavirus disease (Covid-19), with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Bharat Biotech partnering to develop a vaccine candidate, the research body announced on Saturday.
“ ICMR and Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL) have partnered to develop a fully indigenous vaccine for COVID-19 using the virus strain isolated at ICMR’s National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune,” the apex research body said in a statement.
“ ICMR has shared one of the 11 virus strains that it managed to culture with Bharat Biotech. The industry partnership is to develop the vaccine candidate and ICMR has transferred the technology to them,” explained Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar, head, department of epidemiology and communicable disease, ICMR.
ICMR’s apex laboratory, NIV, managed to isolate the virus as early as February, using the swab samples of the initial Covid-19 positive cases reported from the state of Kerala.
Coronavirus is a difficult virus to isolate; however, scientists at NIV managed to isolate and culture 11 strains -- the basic requirement to develop a vaccine in future or any research related to the viruses.
One of the strains has now been successfully transferred from NIV to Bharat Biotech International Ltd. (BBIL) in Hyderabad as part of the partnership.
“The work on vaccine development has been initiated between the two partners. ICMR-NIV will provide continuous support to BBIL for vaccine development. ICMR and BBIL will seek fast-track approvals to expedite vaccine development, subsequent animal studies and clinical evaluation of the candidate vaccine,” said the ICMR statement.
Dr Krishna Ella, chairman and managing director, Bharat Biotech, confirmed the development.
“We are very proud to participate in this project of national importance with ICMR and NIV. We will do everything to make this programme successful in our endeavour to combat Covid-19 pandemic. We also take pride being the only company in the developing world having Biosafety Level 3 production manufacturing facility,” he said.
Bharat Biotech announced early last month that it was working on a unique intranasal vaccine for Coronavirus ‘CoroFlu’ in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the vaccine companies FluGen in the US.
It will take a few months before the vaccine candidate is ready.
“It normally takes about two-three months for the vaccine candidate to be ready, and then different studies are undertaken to test the vaccine candidate,” said Dr Gangakhedkar.