New Delhi/Hyderabad: Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL), a Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturer, is in talks with Moderna Inc. to manufacture their Covid-19 vaccine in India, ThePrint has learnt.
IIL — a leading company in veterinary and human biologicals — is talking to the US biotechnology firm, Moderna, via the country’s premier research organisation of biology, Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB).
“Last month, via CCMB, IIL had asked for technical know-how on manufacturing Moderna’s product locally. However, we are still waiting for the revert from Moderna,” an official from IIL, who wished to remain unnamed, told ThePrint.
A senior CCMB official confirmed the same and added: “The talks are really in a premature stage, right now. However, we may get more clarity in the coming three to four weeks.”
However, Dr K. Anand Kumar, IIL’s managing director, told ThePrint, “Right now, no talks are going on.” He neither confirmed nor denied other details.
Moderna’s spokesperson, Ray Jordan, also said he could not comment on the matter. “Unfortunately, I would not be in a position to share further information on either ongoing or rumoured talks or negotiations.”
The Moderna vaccine was one of the first Covid-19 vaccines, along with Pfizer, to show above 90 per cent efficacy against the virus in November. It received emergency use authorisation in the US in December and was approved by the UK Friday. The French medical regulator HAS also approved the vaccine on the same day.
‘Not just IIL, other companies are also talking to Moderna’
According to the CCMB official quoted above, the institute is in talks with several vaccine manufacturers for Moderna’s vaccine.
“Four to five companies are involved in the talks, via CCMB, with Moderna… after they (these companies) expressed the interest to bring their vaccine, here,” he said.
CCMB Director Rakesh Mishra said the organisation has been talking to different companies but did not comment on the ongoing talks with Moderna.
“There are biotech companies involved, academic organisations etc. Basically any company which we think will be able to leverage the situation, we will talk to them. Of course, we will also be in touch with the central government while doing this,” Mishra told ThePrint.
Meanwhile, the CCMB official, who is closely involved with the talks, noted that a company that can offer large-scale production will be given preference in negotiations with Moderna.
“Once the talks are finalised we can see if IIL goes ahead or would it be any other company. Obviously, the company which can offer large scale production and has that capacity will be preferred.”
The official hinted that one other company is also from Hyderabad.
He added: “Moderna is a small company (when compared to Pfizer or AstraZeneca)… It does not have capacity as that of Pfizer or so, and they themselves are overwhelmed with the demand for the vaccine in the US. So, it needs to be seen how they would work out things in India.
Moderna an mRNA-based vaccine
In November, early data from Moderna showed its mRNA vaccine is nearly 95 per cent effective against Covid-19, similar to the Pfizer vaccine.
Messenger RNA, or mRNA, instructs cells to produce many substances that allow the body to function. These vaccines use carefully designed mRNA strands to teach cells to create a modified version of a key coronavirus protein, prompting an immune response that can fend off the real virus.
The US vaccine maker now plans to produce at least 600 million doses of its vaccine this year.
Two vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — have received ‘accelerated regulatory approval’ in India. Covishield is is pharmaceutical company Serum Institute of India’s version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine while Covaxin has been developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).