Indian biotech firm secures right to nasal vaccine
Bharat Biotech will be manufacturing up to a billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine which is expected to be cheaper than other vaccines in development.
Bharat Biotech, headquartered in Hyderabad, has obtained the rights for a novel chimp-adenovirus vaccine for COVID-19, jointly with US-based biotech firm Precision Virologics. The vaccine is being developed by the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri and one billion doses of the single-dose vaccine will be manufactured by the Indian firm. It isn’t clear which countries will get how many doses. Subject to regulatory approvals, the company has the license to distribute the vaccine in all markets except the US, Japan and Europe.
Compared to other vaccines in development, this one is expected to be easier to distribute and administer. Effective immunisation in a single dose is a major advantage. This will also reduce costs considerably since the nasal vaccine will negate the need for needles, syringes, etc., and also circumvent the shortage of skilled personnel trained to inject them.
Phase 1 trials will begin in the university’s Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit and, after regulatory approvals, Bharat Biotech will continue further stages of clinical trials in India prior to embarking on large-scale manufacturing of the vaccine. The firm’s Covaxin vaccine is already under Phase II human clinical trials in the country.
The vaccine protects against the coronavirus but also targets the cells lining the nose and throat, preventing the spread of the disease. This sets it apart from other vaccines under development. Adenovirus vaccines are a genetically modified virus that carries a code for the body to produce the spiky outer layer of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is expected that this will help the body recognise the spike protein as a foreign substance and build an immune response to it, being on the ready when the person comes in contact with the virus. There are other adenovirus vaccine candidates being tested in India called Covishield (the Oxford vaccine) and Sputnik V from Russia.