In the race to find a cure for the coronavirus infection, Texas-based Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) has entered into a licensing agreement with Indian pharmaceutical company Biological E Limited (BE) for the development of a safe, effective and affordable vaccine.
According to BCM, Hyderabad-headquartered BE has licensed the recombinant protein Covid-19 vaccine candidate developed at Baylor.
The company engaged in licence negotiations with the BCM Ventures team after initial discussions on Baylor's technology and how it could possibly inform a vaccine to address the current global pandemic.
The company will leverage its past experience for the further development and commercialisation of the vaccine candidate, which is currently produced using a proven yeast-based expression technology, the Texas-based BCM said.
"Recent information that India has become the third-leading nation in terms of Covid-19 cases has sparked concern that Covid-19 will become widespread and a serious and deadly infection across the crowded urban areas of South Asia,” said Dr Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor, at a webinar organised by the Consul General of India in Houston, Aseem Mahajan, last week.
"The healthcare sector is predicted to grow steadily in India and the US. Given the complementarities, companies in both the countries have a great opportunity to build synergies including to partner together for global supply chains, joint research and manufacturing," Mahajan told PTI.
Hotez and his colleagues have already been making SARs and MERS vaccines.
"Then, when we got word about Covid-19, we saw that the sequence for the new virus was similar to some of the viruses that we were already making vaccines for," said Hotez, who is also the co-director of Texas Children's Centre for Vaccine Development.
Hotez and his team were able to quickly move on to creating a Covid-19 vaccine, which resulted in the collaboration with a large vaccine producer in India.
"They have the capacity to make a billion doses of the vaccine that we've developed at Baylor College of Medicine.
"We're very worried that a lot of the low and middle income countries will be kind of pushed aside if we only rely on the Operation Warp Speed vaccines so we think what we do at Texas Children's and Baylor should fill that critically important gap," he said.
The vaccine is still in trials in India with the hope that it will be able to roll out some time next year.
"For the past two decades, our vaccine centre has been advancing global health vaccines to prevent neglected and emerging diseases,” said associate dean Dr Maria Elena Bottazzi.
"We are therefore well suited to embark on this important collaboration with BE and look forward to facilitating the technology transfer for the Covid-19 vaccine to India and for the world. The current focus is on transfer of the technology for BE to initiate scale-up of the manufacturing process and undertake further development of the vaccine candidate," she said.
Meanwhile, the BE in a statement said the partnership with Baylor would help accelerate the development of an affordable vaccine, especially for India and other low- and middle-income nations.
"If the vaccine development is successful, we expect to make several hundred million doses of the vaccine available annually," said Narender Dev Mantena, director of BioE Holdings Inc, who heads BE's novel vaccine initiative.
Photograph: Dada Ruvic / Reuters.