Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), on July 7 said the company is hoping to develop a COVID-19 vaccine by the year-end as it is focusing on a 'good and safe' product and is not in a 'rush'.
He was speaking during the launch of 'Compact XL, a compact diagnostics machine by MyLab Discovery Solutions, that will automate lab processes from sample handling to preparing RT-PCR tubes.
Replying to a question about the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, Poonawalla said that by the end of 2020, the SII is hoping to have a vaccine.
"End of the year, we are hoping to have a vaccine. So we will discuss once of the phase three trials for the product come about. Recently, there was news about another vaccine candidate which was being rushed. We do not want to rush anything. We want to emphasis on safety and efficacy... and once we are confident of good and safe vaccine, we will announce but that is still six months away from now," said Adar.
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.
He further said that till the vaccine comes, testing is the key and that is why SII has invested in MyLabs.
"If you test, isolate and segregate, we can manage the situation till the good cure or vaccine comes around," said Adar.
SII has invested over Rs 100 crore in MyLabs, a Pune-based molecular diagnostics firm.
Poonawalla lamented that India is not testing enough and added that Indian test manufacturers including MyLabs are picking up the production capacity.
"There is a fear that what will happen if the number of positive patients increases. I would like to say that there is no harm if the number increases as it will help us detect people," he added.
Poonawalla also sought permission to allow export of the test kits.
"We have enough capacity in manufacturing testing kits. MyLab can produce 2 million kits per week and there is no that much demand in India so allow us to export and we have enough buffer stock for India readily available if there is more outbreak," he said adding they are waiting for the government's blessings.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.