The Serum Institute of India (SII) would introduce candidate vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax for COVID-19 at $3 (less than Rs 230) per dose in India after receiving an upfront capital of $150 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Pune-based institute would offer up to 100 million doses at a price capped at $3 for 92 low and middle-income countries (LMIC), including India, SII announced on Friday.
As per SII, the vaccines will be available as early as the first half of 2021 after gaining approvals and qualifications from the World Health Organization (WHO). The SII also said that if successful, Novavax’s candidate will be available to all 92 countries while AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine will be available to 57 Gavi-eligible countries.
The development comes after the SII entered into a collaboration with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of COVAX agreement. Under the agreement, the SII will receive an upfront capital of $150 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation via Gavi to enhance the capacity to manufacture and distribute the potential vaccine to candidates on a large scale after gaining regulatory approval and WHO prequalification. The funding will support at-risk manufacturing by SII for candidate vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax.
Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), commented, “India has demonstrated consistent capability in delivering low-cost and high-quality medical research, while also maintaining technical and scientific rigour. ICMR is deeply supportive of our cutting edge vaccine research and manufacturing prowess, of which SII is one prominent example. This partnership signifies yet another step in India’s efforts to bolster the fight against this global pandemic.”
SII has signed two agreements for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, the first being AstraZeneca-Oxford’s candidate, for which the company has agreed to produce up to 1 billion doses for low and middle-income countries. The Oxford University vaccine candidate has received permission to start phase-2 and 3 trials in India last week.
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The second agreement is with the US-based Novavax that has granted the company exclusive and non-exclusive licences for development, co-formulation, filling and finishing, registration and commercialisation of its NVX-CoV2373 vaccine product for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Novavax trials are yet to start in India.
The deal, built on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between AstraZeneca and Gavi, reportedly guarantees 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine to the wider COVAX Facility, to be supplied upon licensure or prequalification, the statement by the SII read.
“The rampant spread of the virus has rendered the entire world in an unimaginable halt of uncertainty. And to ensure maximum immunisation coverage and contain the pandemic, it is important to make sure that the most remote and poorest countries of the world have access to affordable cure and preventive measures. Through this association, we seek to ramp up our constant efforts to save the lives of millions of people from this dreadful disease,” said Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India.