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Bharat Biotech has two more Covid vaccines in pipeline

By Vinay Umarji
January 16, 2021 09:30 IST
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Today, the firm has delivered over four billion doses of vaccines and has over 140 patents under its belt.

The company has in its portfolio over 16 vaccines and four bio-therapeutics, including probiotic yeast Biogit and zinc oral rehydration salts Zelect, registered in 116 countries, besides WHO pre-qualified vaccines, reports Vinay Umarji.

Photograph: Kind courtesy, Bharat Biotech

When it comes to developing life-saving vaccines, an important trait to exhibit is a strong sense of altruism.

 

Krishna Ella, founder chairman of Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL), seems to know this.

In its journey of over two decades, the Hyderabad based company has rolled out crucial vaccines and bio-therapeutics at affordable prices.

And so, Bharat Biotech -- which has got approval for emergency restricted use for its Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, along with Serum Institute of India’s Covishield -- draws over 80 per cent of its revenues from just its top two or three vaccines.

Bharat Biotech's journey with Covaxin is in sync with its various successes over the last two decades.

First a scientist and then a businessman, Ella quit his faculty position at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, United States, in 1996 to return to India -- apparently coaxed by his mother -- with a vision of remedies for the developing world.

Within two years of the launch of Bharat Biotech in Genome Valley, Hyderabad, Ella and his wife Suchitra's company developed the world's first Cesium Chloride-free Hepatitis-B vaccine, Revac-B+, which was launched by APJ Abdul Kalam.

Soon, Bharat Biotech expanded its manufacturing capacity to churn out 100 million doses of Revac-B+, making it one of the world’s largest manufacturers of Hepatitis-B vaccines.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the first indigenously developed vaccine against rotavirus with Krishna Ella, chairman of Bharat Biotech. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Bharat Biotech/Facebook

By 2002, Ella's scientific and business acumen coupled with Bharat Biotech's rapid growth in the global vaccine scene caught the attention of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

And, Bharat Biotech became India's first company to receive two grants from the foundation to develop new vaccines against malaria and rotavirus.

The company further expanded its global footprint by entering into a manufacturing and marketing agreement with British company Acambis for developing a Japanese encephalitis vaccine in 2005.

Partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and various agencies, Ella ensured that Bharat Biotech successfully developed Rotavac, India’s first new molecule and the world’s most affordable vaccine against rotavirus-induced diarrhoeal infections and death. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the vaccine in 2015.

The company also developed and launched Typbar TCV, the world’s first clinically proven and WHO pre-qualified typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) which can be administered to even a six-month-old baby.

Bharat Biotech's TCV was put to a challenge study at Oxford University in 2018 and has proven its efficacy. (Challenge studies are those where human volunteers are exposed to the infection deliberately.)

Today, the firm has delivered over four billion doses of vaccines and has over 140 patents under its belt.

The company has in its portfolio over 16 vaccines and four bio-therapeutics, including probiotic yeast Biogit and zinc oral rehydration salts Zelect, registered in 116 countries, besides WHO pre-qualified vaccines.

Meanwhile, apart from Covaxin, Bharat Biotech has also invested in two other vaccine candidates to tackle Covid-19: CoroFlu in collaboration with FluGen Inc and the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and an inactivated rabies vaccine vehicle for coronavirus proteins that it is developing with Matthias J Schnell, the director of Jefferson Vaccine Centre, Pennsylvania.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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Vinay Umarji in Ahmedabad
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The War Against Coronavirus