Gennova likely to become second vaccine maker to receive advance from Centre


Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Pune-based vaccine maker Gennova could become the second company in India to receive advance payment from the Union government for manufacturing and stockpiling its Covid-19 vaccine, based on mRNA platform, that has shown encouraging results in Phase 1 trials.

Importantly, the manufacturer which is set to apply to the apex drug regulator to begin Phase 2 and 3 trials, is also tailoring the vaccine specifically against the delta variant of the Covid virus, which caused the devastating second wave in India. 

 The Centre last month had made an advance payment of Rs 1,500 crore to Hyderabad-based vaccine maker Biological E for procuring its Covid vaccine, still under Phase 3 clinical trials, marking the first such deal. By doing this, the government secured 30 crore doses, likely to be available by December end.

Insiders in the government said that results of the mRNA vaccine by Gennova look very promising and the health ministry is actively considering funding for at-risk production. This was not done for the production of either Covaxin or Covishield, though the government had helped majorly in Covaxin’s pre-clinical and clinical studies as it was the country’s first indigenous vaccine, co-developed by Bharat Biotech and the ICMR. 

The vaccine by Gennova has been developed with cooperation from the US-based HDT Biotech Corporation and has many benefits. One of these is it uses the self-amplifying RNA that allows more doses to be produced per batch, while the other advantage is the option to redesign the vaccine to emerging variants, a feature possible easily with mRNA platforms. In addition, it can be stored at 2-8 degrees Celcius, which makes storage and distribution easy. 

Over the last few months, the company has received funding of about `125 crore from the department of biotechnology of the Union government for preclinical and clinical development, while the project has been closely monitored by its subject expert committee.  

The government, looking to fully vaccinate all adults over the next few months, is hoping to procure at least 6 crore doses by year-end, provided it proves its protective efficacy in late stage trials. The first stage of clinical trials of the vaccine saw it being tested on about 120 individuals in the age group of 18-70 years.

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