ICMR, Bharat Biotech teaming up to develop Indian COVID-19 vaccine
In a major development, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is teaming up with Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL) to develop the first "Make-in-India" vaccine for COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus disease. The work on the solution has been initiated and will reportedly be expedited with the help of fast-track approvals from the government. Here's all you need to know about it.
On Saturday, ICMR issued a statement announcing a research collaboration with Hyderabad-based BBIL for a fully indigenous COVID-19 vaccine. The apex health research council said that a strain of the virus isolated at its National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune has been transferred to Bharat Biotech, which will use it to develop a vaccine candidate.
"ICMR has shared one of the 11 virus strains that it managed to culture with Bharat Biotech. The industry partnership is to develop the vaccine candidate...ICMR has transferred the technology to them," Dr. Raman Gangakhedkar, ICMR's head of epidemiology and communicable diseases, told Hindustan Times.
While ICMR did not say anything about the type of vaccine being developed by BBIL, the strain transfer indicates that the formula may use a weakened/dead version of the virus or part of its genetic material to train the immune system to detect and fight off infection. This is how vaccines are typically developed to help generate antibodies needed to protect people from viruses.
The work on the first "Make in India" COVID-19 vaccine will also be backed by a fast-tracked approval system. "ICMR-NIV will provide continuous support to BBIL for vaccine development," the council added in its official statement while noting that it will "seek fast-track approvals to expedite vaccine development, subsequent animal studies, and clinical evaluation of the candidate vaccine" needed for ensuring safety and efficacy.
That said, it must be noted that the work has just started and it might be a while before you could see India's own COVID-19 vaccine in the market. Dr. Gangakhedkar said, "It normally takes about two-three months for the vaccine candidate to be ready, and then different studies are undertaken to test the vaccine candidate," which adds several more months to the process.
The vaccine effort from ICMR and BBIL comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in India closes in on the 63,000 mark, while deaths surpass 2,100. Globally, the disease has killed nearly 2.8 lakh people.