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Shilpa Medicare can make 100-200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, says executive

India, the world's largest vaccine producing nation, has been ramping up the production of COVID-19 vaccines and global firms including AstraZeneca, U.S.-based Novavax and Russia's RDIF have signed manufacturing deals with local players.

April 07, 2021 / 01:51 PM IST
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Indian drugmaker Shilpa Medicare Ltd has the capacity to manufacture 100-200 million doses of a protein-based vaccine for COVID-19, a company executive told Reuters on Wednesday.

India, the world's largest vaccine producing nation, has been ramping up the production of COVID-19 vaccines and global firms including AstraZeneca, U.S.-based Novavax and Russia's RDIF have signed manufacturing deals with local players.

RDIF, in particular, has already announced deals with six Indian companies to make more than half a billion doses of its Sputnik-V vaccine, including major drugmaker Dr Reddy's Laboratories and several smaller firms.

Shilpa Medicare's shares jumped as much as 10.4% on India's National Stock Exchange following the news. They were last up 9.2%.

Both AstraZeneca's vaccine and RDIF's Sputnik-V are based on the protein-based recombinant technology, which combines the DNA from a virus with bacterial cells to produce proteins that are purified and used in a vaccine.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"For recombinant vaccines, anywhere between 100 and 200 million doses is a fair volume capacity (for Shilpa) ... depending on the vaccine type," Vinay Konaje, managing director of Shilpa Biologicals, a unit of Shilpa Medicare, said in an interview.

Konaje declined to comment on whether Shilpa Medicare could partner with RDIF or any other vaccine developers for manufacturing COVID-19 shots.

Shilpa Medicare was among the Indian companies that could ink Sputnik-V manufacturing deals with RDIF, Fortune India reported last week, citing unnamed industry officials.

Shilpa makes active pharmaceutical ingredients — the essential components of a drug — at facilities in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, as well as a plant in Austria.

Vaccines for COVID-19 can be manufactured at Shilpa's facility at Dharwad, Karnataka, Konaje said.

Deaths from COVID-19 have crossed 3 million globally, while India is struggling to contain a second wave of the virus that has eclipsed the first.

India has also indicated it would prioritise local vaccine needs, and its foreign minister said last month India had told international buyers as much.
Reuters
first published: Apr 7, 2021 12:18 pm

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