The world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, Pune’s Serum Institute of India (SII), has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance to make 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for low- and medium-income countries at a price of Rs 250 per dose. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, via its Strategic Investment Fund, will provide at-risk funding of $150 million to Gavi, which will be used to support the SII to manufacture the potential vaccine candidates, the firm noted. Priced at $3 per dose, the vaccines will be made available to 92 countries across the world including India. These countries are included in Gavi’s Covax Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
Covax is an initiative by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is being managed by Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), to ensure equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines that are successfully developed. This would be done by pooling in resources and sharing the risk of vaccine development. To put things into perspective, SII will supply 100 million doses to the Covax countries at $3. It also has a tie-up with Oxford-Astrazeneca for their candidate AZD1222 which is under advanced stages of clinical trial. According to that agreement, SII will supply one billion doses of the vaccine to Astrazeneca, a British drug major which has already committed to making two bn doses of AZD1222. ALSO READ: Serum Institute to partner with Gates Foundation to make Covid-19 vaccine SII thus plans to make around 300 mn doses of the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine by December here and is about to begin the phase 2 trials in India soon. Meanwhile, it has also tied up with Novavax Inc for development and commercialisation of its Covid-19 vaccine candiate recently. It will have the exclusive rights for the vaccine in India (during the term of the deal) and non-exclusive rights during the ‘pandemic period’ in all countries apart from upper-middle or high income countries. Novavax vaccine candidate is expected to go into a phase-3 trial late September. These tie-ups remain as it is, and thereby implying that apart from the commitment of the 100 mn doses supply to Gavi, the company may choose to price it differently in India. SII said that the Gavi and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation collaboration will provide upfront capital to SII to help them increase manufacturing capacity now so that, once a vaccine, or vaccines, gains regulatory approval and WHO prequalification, doses can be produced at scale for distribution to India and low medium income countries (LMIC) as part of the Gavi CovaxAMC mechanism as early as the first half of 2021. The funding will support at-risk manufacturing by SII for candidate vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax, which will be available for procurement if they are successful in attaining full licensure and WHO Prequalification. The arrangement also provides an option to secure additional doses if the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator sees a need for it. ALSO READ: Switzerland inks pact with Moderna for early access to firm’s Covid vaccine “In an attempt to make our fight against Covid-19 stronger and all-embracing; SII has partnered with Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of future Covid vaccines for India and low and middle income countries in 2021,” said Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India. SII has had partnerships with Gavi and pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines that protect against meningitis, severe diarrhoea, pneumonia and measles. Dr. Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, shared, “India has a proven track record of manufacturing safe and cost-effective vaccines not only for India, but for the world. We are very happy to see SII enter this global partnership to respond to the global health crisis posed by Covid-19.” Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), commented, “India’s has demonstrated consistent capability in delivering on 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.” ALSO READ: India Coronavirus Dispatch: 600,000 frontline health workers go on strike The Gavi Covax AMC, which is currently seeking at least $ 2 billion in initial seed funding, will meet at least part of the cost of procurement for the vaccine doses. Last week the Gavi Board agreed the final list of 92 countries that will be supported by the AMC. Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine, if successful, will be available to 57 Gavi-eligible countries. Novavax’s candidate, if successful, will be available to all 92 countries supported by the AMC. The deal builds on a memorandum of understanding between AstraZeneca and Gavi, announced in June, which will guarantee 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine to the wider Covax Facility Highlights Serum Institute partners Gavi, Gates Foundation to price Covid vaccines for low medium income countries at Rs 250 a dose Serum will supply 100 mn doses to the collaboration Gavi will supply Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to 57 countries, Novavax vaccine to 92 countries Gates foundation will provide $150 mn risk funding to Gavi that will be used to support SII SII has tie ups with Oxford-AstraZeneca and also Novavax It has freedom to price the vaccine in India at a different price point apart from the 100 mn dose commitment to Gavi