The Union Health Ministry has finalised arrangements with Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturer Biological-E to reserve 30 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses for which it will be making an advance payment of Rs 1,500 crore. These vaccine doses will be manufactured and stockpiled by Biological-E from August to December this year, a ministry statement said on Thursday.
Biological-E’s COVID-19 vaccine is currently undergoing phase-3 clinical trials after showing promising results in phase 1 and 2 trials. An RBD protein sub-unit vaccine, it is likely to be available in the next few months. Biological-E’s proposal was examined and recommended for approval after due diligence by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), the statement said.
The arrangement with Biological-E is part of the wider endeavour of the Union government to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research and development and also financial aid, it said. The Biological-E COVID vaccine candidate has been supported by the Union government from preclinical stage to phase-3 studies.
The Department of Biotechnology has not only provided financial assistance in terms of grant-in-aid of over Rs 100 crore but has also partnered with Biological-E to conduct all animal challenge and assay studies through its Research Institute Translational Health Science Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad.
This has been undertaken as part of the government's 'Mission COVID Suraksha, the Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission,' which was launched to reinforce and accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development efforts as part of the third stimulus package, Atmanirbhar 3.0, the statement said.
The mission aims to bring to citizens a safe, efficacious, affordable and accessible COVID-19 vaccine. The mission is supporting development of 5-6 COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Some of these are now closer to licensure and introduction in public health systems.
It has not just accelerated COVID-19 vaccine development efforts, but also fostered a robust end-to-end vaccine development ecosystem in the country that will be available for other ongoing and future research and developmental activities for other vaccines.