Panacea Biotec Ltd expects its hexavalent EasySix vaccine, containing the safer inactivated polio virus strains, to cater to a $1 billion market annually at its peak, the company’s joint managing director Rajesh Jain said.
Panacea hopes to get the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) prequalification by early 2022, Jain said in an interview.
Inactivated polio vaccine is considered a safer alternative to the oral polio vaccine (OPV), which has weaker live strains of the virus, and global health organizations such as WHO and GAVI (a global vaccine alliance) plan to gradually replace procurement of OPV with the inactivated variety of the vaccine.
“GAVI has recently given out the whole procurement projections from 20 million doses starting in 2022 till it reaches a peak procurement of 250 million doses. This is only for IPV-based (inactivated polio vaccine) hexavalent vaccine,” Jain said. The vaccine could be priced as much as $4 per dose.
Panacea’s hexavalent vaccine, which can immunize patients against six diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B and polio, will also be manufactured and sold by Serum Institute of India.
The two companies signed a pact in January 2018, under which the Serum Institute’s subsidiary Bilthovan Biologicals BV would supply inactivated polio vaccine to Panacea, while Serum Institute could manufacture and sell the vaccine.
Serum Institute and its CEO Adar Cyrus Poonawalla together held 14.58% stake in Panacea Biotec as of September-end, according to information on the BSE website.
Panacea also plans to introduce its vaccines against dengue and pneumonia, both by 2023, Jain said. “Panacea is also working on a dengue vaccine. We are finishing our phase 1 and 2 somewhere around February next year. This is a new vaccine that will provide immunity against all four serotypes (strains) of the virus,” Jain said.
The company’s dengue vaccine is licensed from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the US, which is using the dengue serotype-3 virus. The clinical trials for the vaccine under phase 1 and 2 together had started last year.
The company’s vaccine segment has struggled for most of the decade gone by, especially between 2011 and 2013, when the WHO dropped Panacea from its list of prequalified suppliers for pentavalent and oral polio vaccines due to quality issues at its plants.
In 2010-11, before the quality control issues, Panacea’s vaccine sales accounted for 74% of its total revenue. The impact of the problem has led the proportion to drop to less than 20% even in April-September this year.
With the quality issues resolved, and after the investment of ₹992 crore in non-convertible debentures by Piramal Enterprises Ltd and Bain Capital Credit-backed India Resurgence Fund, the situation is looking brighter, especially for the vaccine business, he said.
In the current financial year, Jain expects the vaccine business to grow around 59% and the pharmaceutical sales to increase 12%.
Panacea’s pharmaceutical business has been growing steadily while the vaccine business was in turmoil, and its share in the consolidated revenue now accounts for more than 80%. Jain expects the pharmaceutical growth to be steady especially with launches of about 2-3 branded generic drugs every year. “In the next one year, we are looking at new launches to strengthen our current brands in gastroenterology, orthopedics, oncology and organ transplantation,” Jain said.