Lab technicians produce Covid-19 diagnostic kits in a laboratory in Faridabad
Representational image | T Narayan | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) Friday announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide at-risk funding of $150 million (around Rs 1,125 crore) for the manufacture of its two potential vaccine candidates — ‘Covishield’ by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and NVX-CoV2373 by Novavax.

Along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, SII has also tied up with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

According to an agreement made between the three bodies, the funding will be used to help SII produce and supply around 100 million (10 crore) doses of Covid-19 vaccine to 92 low- and middle-income countries at $3 (Rs 224 approx) for each dose.

SII claims this can be done as early as 2021, given the vaccine candidates fulfil WHO’s pre-qualification and gain full licensure.

The development comes a day after Novavax announced it had joined hands with SII to develop and produce its vaccine candidate (NVX-CoV2373). SII had signed an agreement with Oxford and AstraZeneca in June.

“The rampant spread of the virus has rendered the entire world in an unimaginable halt of uncertainty. And to ensure maximum immunisation coverage and contain the pandemic, it is important to make sure that the most remote and poorest countries of the world have access to affordable cure and preventive measures.

“Through this association, we seek to ramp up our constant efforts to save the lives of millions of people from this dreadful disease,” Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, said in a statement.

There are over 19 million cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide, with India accounting for 2.3 million as of 7 August.

Also read: Serum Institute tells Modi govt how pandemic is affecting clinical trials of non-Covid drugs

Serum Institute’s fight against Covid-19

SII has been involved in the fight against Covid-19 on many levels. It is due to start phase two and three human clinical trials for its Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, following a nod by the Drugs Controller General of India Sunday.

For this, 1,600 participants from India will be recruited in over 20 selected trial sites.

SII had signed a second agreement with Novavax to manufacture up to 1 billion doses of its vaccine candidate for low- and middle-income countries. Prior to the signing, Novavax had said that its vaccine was “well-tolerated” and produced a “robust” immune response in its phase one trials carried out on 131 subjects.

The latest agreement, SII said, seeks to “help guarantee access to early doses for the most vulnerable on a truly global scale”.

Also read: Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNtech & Moderna — how the 3 potential Covid vaccines stack up


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