New Delhi: India Saturday officially entered the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The Indian Council Medical Research (ICMR) announced a tie-up with the Bharat Biotech International Limited for the development of a “fully indigenous vaccine for Covid-19”.
.@ICMRDELHI has transferred the #Covid_19 strain isolated at @icmr_niv to @bharatbiotech. We will be partnering with them to develop an indigenous #Covid_19 vaccine!#icmrfightscovid19 #IndiaFightsCoronavirus @MoHFW_INDIA #MakeInIndia pic.twitter.com/Q73JZsU30f
— ICMR (@ICMRDELHI) May 9, 2020
The tally of Covid-19 cases in India has crossed the 60,000 mark.
According to a statement issued by the ICMR, “the virus strain isolated at” the National Institute of Virology laboratory in Pune will be used to develop the vaccine. “The strain has been successfully transferred from NIV to Bharat Biotech International Ltd. (BBIL). Work on vaccine development has been initiated between the two partners.”
Currently, over 100 candidate vaccines are in different stages of development around the world, according to the World Health Organization. Eight of such vaccines, including ones being developed by US-based biotech company Moderna and the University of Oxford, are undergoing clinical evaluation.
Expediting vaccine development
This is the first time that a vaccine for Covid-19 is being developed in India, which reported its first cases way back in January.
Speaking to ThePrint, Dr Rajnikant Srivastava, ICMR’s head of the Department of Research Management, Policy Planning and Communication, in Delhi and Director of Regional Medical Research Centre, Gorakhpur, however, maintained that it didn’t take considerable time for such a project to be initiated.
“There were only three cases till March. We started working in March…In only two months we were able to isolate the virus, culture it and transfer it for vaccine development,” he said.
According to ICMR’s statement, NIV Pune, the first laboratory in the country to begin testing for Covid-19, “will provide continuous support to BBIL for vaccine development”. Srivastava said BBIL was chosen for its “expertise in vaccine development”. “Earlier, they had developed the vaccine for the Japanese encephalitis, so they were chosen…They will manufacture the vaccine,” he said.
The vaccine, he said, will take anywhere from six months to one year to be developed as it will undergo the standard trials on animals and humans.
The tally of Covid-19 cases climbed to 62,939 on Sunday as 3,277 more cases were registered. The highest increase was recorded in Maharashtra where the number of cases rose to 20,228 from 19,063.