A CDSCO expert panel has sought clarifications from Serum Institute of India (SII) over its application to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) seeking permission for conducting phase 2 and 3 human clinical trials of the Oxford vaccine candidate for COVID-19, official sources said on Wednesday.
The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) on COVID-19 which held its meeting on Tuesday deliberated on the application by SII and asked the Pune-based firm to revise its protocol for the phase 2 and 3 clinical trials, besides seeking some additional information.
On Wednesday evening, SII submitted a revised protocol for conducting the trials to the DCGI.
"The company on Tuesday was asked to clearly define phase 2 and phase 3 part of the protocol and resubmit their application for evaluation by the SEC," an official source said.
The panel also recommended that the proposed clinical trial sites be distributed across India, the source said.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
"They also have not given justification for the proposed enrolment of 1,600 subjects during the trial," the source added.
Additional Director, Government Affairs, SII, Prakash Kumar Singh said, "We have submitted our revised protocol to DCGI office today evening for further action by SEC and DCGI."
The SII which has partnered with AstraZeneca for manufacturing the Oxford vaccine candidate for COVID-19 had submitted its application to the DCGI on July 24, seeking permission for conducting the phase 2 and 3 trials of the potential vaccine 'Covidshield'.
"According to the application, it would conduct an observer-blind, randomised controlled study to determine the safety and immunogenicity of 'Covishield' in healthy Indian adults. The firm said that an around 1,600 participants of more than 18 years would be enrolled in the study," a source had said.
Initial results of the first two-phase trials of the vaccine conducted in five trial sites in the UK showed it has an acceptable safety profile and homologous boosting increased antibody responses, the source said.
To introduce the vaccine, SII, the world's largest vaccine maker by number of doses produced and sold, has signed an agreement to manufacture the potential vaccine developed by the Jenner Institute (Oxford University) in collaboration with British-Swedish pharma company AstraZeneca.
On the partnership with AstraZeneca, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla had said, "Serum Institute of India has entered a manufacturing partnership with AstraZeneca to produce and supply 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University."
These vaccines will be for India and middle and low income countries across the world (GAVI countries), he had said. The firm plans to start the phase 2 and 3 human trials in India in August.
Oxford University recently had announced satisfactory progress with the vaccine, making it one of the leading ones among the dozens of vaccine candidates being developed around the world.Click here for Moneycontrol's full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak