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Biocon partners SII to make vaccine, drug manufacturing accessible to developing nations

Under the deal, Biocon Biologics Ltd (BBL) will offer approximately 15% stake to Serum Institute Life Sciences at a post-money valuation of about Rs 35,000 crore.

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New Delhi: Bengaluru-based Biocon Ltd and Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) have announced a strategic alliance in a bid to increase vaccines and antibody therapeutics access for developing countries, for infectious diseases including Covid-19, dengue and HIV among others.

The partnership aims to complement the strengths and resources of the two leading players, Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and SII chief executive Adar Poonawalla said Friday at a press meet announcing the move.

While SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses produced, Biocon is a fully integrated global biosimilars organisation with six biosimilars taken from lab to market across the world.

According to a statement Thursday, Biocon subsidiary Biocon Biologics Ltd (BBL) will offer approximately 15 per cent stake to Serum Institute Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd (SILS), an SII subsidiary, at a post-money valuation of about $4.9 billion (Rs 35,000 crore).

In return, BBL will get access to a 100 million doses of vaccines per annum for 15 years, primarily from SILS’s upcoming vaccine facility in Pune, along with commercialisation rights of the SILS vaccines — including Covid-19 vaccines — for global markets.

According to the agreement terms, BBL will generate a committed revenue stream and related margins starting the second half of the financial year 2023-24. Moreover, Poonawalla will have a board seat in Biocon Biologics.

The alliance will also develop antibodies targeting several infectious diseases including dengue, HIV, etc. The two companies will enter Service Level Agreements for manufacturing and distribution of vaccines and antibody therapies.

Also read: 43 cr doses done since July, but govt yet to release report on adverse effects of vaccines

‘Will complement strengths and resources’

Speaking at the press meet, Poonawala said SII had to delay its plans to work on and produce monoclonal therapies for Covid due to the huge demand of vaccine production, and the new tie-up aims to address this. 

“The partnership will also allow Biocon, for example, to concentrate on developing new antibody therapeutics, which SII can then commercialise,” Poonawalla said.

“This alliance will complement the strengths and resources of the two leading players in vaccines and biologics. Our shared vision of building large scale businesses having global impact makes it a unique and synergistic value creation opportunity,” Mazumdar-Shaw said. 

“We look forward to complementing each other’s capabilities and capacities in vaccines and biologics, with the objective of addressing inequitable access both in emerging and developed markets for life saving vaccines and biologics,” Poonawalla added. 

Biocon Biologics will also establish a vaccine research and development division to support the alliance in developing both vaccines and biologics for communicable diseases.

Additionally, wherever possible, it will make available its cell culture and sterile fill and finish capacities for vaccine production under the alliance. Both companies believe this is a partnership that can make a significant impact on global healthcare through vaccines and biologics, the statement said.

The partnership will also aim at making India self-reliant in terms of vaccine and drug manufacturing by investing in raw material manufacturing and supply chains.

“We will make investment in raw material manufacturing as well — so that we are fully self-reliant,” Poonawala said, adding that these supply chains will be established in the country.

Mazumdar-Shaw said the partnership will try to ensure that Indian drug manufacturers do not face supply chain disruptions in future.

“Initial additional capacities etc., will be focused on Covid vaccine. But there is a huge pipeline of vaccines for malaria, HPV etc, thereafter that will benefit from the partnership,” Poonawala said.

Covid booster shots unethical?

On booster shots for Covid-19 vaccination, Poonawala said, “The jury is still out on the need for booster vaccines. It is unethical to give out three doses to someone when most people in the developing world have not even been given two doses.”

Maybe an annual booster shot will be needed eventually, but for now we need to vaccinate as many people as possible with two doses, he added.

Mazumdar-Shaw said India will have adequate vaccines by the end of the year, and further Covid waves will be muted due to the number of people who have been vaccinated already.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is among the distinguished founder-investors of ThePrint. Please click here for details on investors.

Also read: Modi govt, BJP prepare to set vaccination record to mark PM’s birthday tomorrow


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