SII Working With US Firm To Launch Omicron-Specific Covid Vaccine After Six Months: Adar Poonawalla

SII Working With US Firm To Launch Omicron-Specific Covid Vaccine After Six Months: Adar Poonawalla

Adar Poonwalla, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Serum Institute of India (SII), said Thursday that the Pune-based pharmaceutical firm will try to launch an Omicron-specific vaccine for the prevention of Covid-19, six months from now, news agency PTI reported. 

On Thursday, the SII launched CERVAVAC, India’s first indigenously developed Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus (qHPV) vaccine against cervical cancer. Poonawalla announced at the event SII’s qHPV vaccine will be available in India in a few months, and also mentioned that the biotechnology company will try to launch an Omicron-specific vaccine soon. 

Since the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has fast transmission and infection rates, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the strain a “variant of concern” last year. 

Poonawalla told reporters that good data is available for the Covovax vaccine. He said that Covovax, which is manufactured by technology transfer from Novavax, covers the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, and there is good data for it. 

SII is working with Gaithersburg-based biotechnology company Novavax to develop the Omicron-specific vaccine, Poonawalla further said. 

About Covovax

SII’s Covovax is a nanoparticle-based vaccine. Covovax is approved by the European Medicines Agency for conditional marketing authorisation, and has been granted emergency use listing by the WHO. 

A nanoparticle-based vaccine is one in which the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which is a part of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, is attached to a protein designed to form nanometre-sized protein particles, or nanoparticles, according to a study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which was published in the journal, Nature. SARS-CoV-2 attaches itself to cells using the spike protein.

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The Covovax vaccine, which is based on Novavax, works by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2.

On December 28, 2021, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted emergency use authorisation, with certain conditions, for inoculation in adults, to Covovax. In May 2022, Covovax was made available for everyone above 12 years of age. 

In June this year, the DCGI approved Covovax for restricted emergency use in children aged seven to 11 years. 

What Did Poonawalla Say About Other Vaccines?

Poonawalla said the need for a vaccine against monkeypox is “debatable”. 

“Yes, it created a little bit of buzz when we saw the cases here. We are conducting research on the topic and can collaborate with the Department of Biotechnology on it too. Our research is going on and we will see in six months,” the report quoted Poonawalla as saying during the event. 

The CEO of the SII said that CERVAVAC may be available in India at the price range of Rs 200 to Rs 400. 

He also said that CERVAVAC will be administered to people in India first, and later to the world. He stated that SII is preparing to make 200 million doses of the qHPV vaccine in two years.

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