Serum Institute – vaccines at the price of a cup of tea

Cyrus Poonawalla – ‘170 countries use SII vaccines’

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Cyrus Poonawalla (second from right) was congratulated by the MCCIA’s Pune International Business Summit on 14 February 2022. Photo HT
Cyrus Poonawalla (second from right) was congratulated by the MCCIA’s Pune International Business Summit on 14 February 2022. Photo HT

Cyrus Poonawalla, awarded the Padma Bhushan award on the day before Republic Day by the government, was congratulated at a meeting of the Maratha Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture’s Pune International Business Unit on 14 February. Poonawalla, the founder and chairman of the Serum Institute of India said, “All over the world, they are surprised that how a company in India has been able to provide vaccines to protect the rest of the countries. Not just Africa, I must stress that 170 countries worldwide use SII vaccines.”

He said he was unaware when he started Serum Institute in a small corner of Hadaspur in Pune, that it would become a vaccine giant, “Little did I know at that time that with the help of my scientists and associates that the company would grow into a vaccine giant – it has become the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world by the number of doses and the not the money we have made.” He went on to say that nearly two-thirds of the world’s infant population has been protected by one or more of the Serum Institute’s vaccines.

“Most of our vaccines have been used by poorer nations, UNICEF, and other philanthropic organizations, who came forward to buy vaccines which I provided with the help of my staff and scientists at a price of a cup of tea. And this has made the world self-sufficient for most of the communicable vaccines required to protect the children and adults where it is required,” he said.

Poonawalla added that the crux of the matter is that the same template – low cost, high production, was applied to make the Oxford-Astra Zeneca licensed Covid-19 vaccine. Covishield as it is known has provided 90% of India’s requirement of the Covid vaccine and has been exported to many of the emerging economies and less developed countries as well as to the United Kingdom. In the last week of November, Serum achieved the milestone of producing one billion doses of Covishield.

Novovax-SII’s Covovax receives EUA from DGCI

On 28 December 2021, the Serum Institute of India received emergency use authorization (EUA) for the US-based vaccine developer Novavax’s recombinant nanoparticle protein-based Covid-19 vaccine with Matrix-M adjuvant from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). The vaccine is being manufactured and marketed in India by SII under the brand name Covovax. In November 2021, the Indian government allowed SII to export 20 million doses of Covovax to Indonesia.

By December 2021 end, the Novavax-SII vaccine had already received Emergency Use Listing (EUL) with the World Health Organization, and EUA in Indonesia and the Philippines. Novavax also announced regulatory filings for its vaccine in Australia, Canada, the European Union, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the WHO. Additionally, Novavax and SK bioscience announced a Biologics License Application (BLA) submission in South Korea. Novavax expects to submit the complete package to the US FDA by the end of the year.

Novovax has more than a decade of experience contending with some of the world’s most devastating diseases, including Covid-19, seasonal influenza, RSV, Ebola, MERS, and SARS. The company says it can make a substantial contribution to global public health.

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