The leading contenders for a coronavirus vaccine have made considerable headway in search for a vaccine candidate. While the general opinion of most experts and pharmaceutical companies is that a corona vaccine would be ready by mid-2021, researchers are still hoping for a 2020 breakthrough. The WHO, however, said that they are expecting a COVID vaccine by no sooner than a year. "It would be very difficult to say for sure that we will have a vaccine. We never had a vaccine for a coronavirus. So this will be, when discovered, hoping that it will be discovered, it will be the first one. Hoping that there will be a vaccine, the estimate is we may have a vaccine within one year. If accelerated, it could be even less than that, but by a couple of months. That's what scientists are saying," said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Moderna that is entering Phase III of its trials in July for its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine is optimistic of receiving FDA approval. The company has signed a deal with Catalent for large-scale manufacturing of its vaccine candidate. Catalent will provide vial filling and packaging capacity as well as additional workforce required for 24X7 manufacturing operations. Catalent is already in partnership with Johnson and Johnson as well as AstraZeneca.
China is experimenting with six candidates on humans and more than a dozen are in different stages of trial. One of the coronavirus vaccine candidates is developed by Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products. The candidate has been co-developed by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical and the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It has received approval from the National Medical Products Administration for clinical trials.
A COVID vaccine developed in Canada's Alberta is moving forward with human trials this summer. Led by University of Alberta researcher Dr John Lewis, Entos Pharmaceuticals has selected two vaccine prototypes for testing in people. "We have two really excellent candidates that produce a very strong neutralising antibody immune response," said Lewis. The Government of Canada has granted Lewis $4.2 million for the project.
In India, Hyderabad-based Hetero has shipped its first batch of Remdesivir drug to five states including Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Telangana. The drug named COVIFOR has been priced at Rs 5,400. The following batch of the drug, which is a generic version of Remdesivir will be sent to Kolkata, Lucknow, Patna, Indore, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Ranchi, Kochi, Trivandrum, Vijayawada and Goa.
Glenmark Pharmaceuticals has also announced the launch of antiviral drug Favipiravir for the treatment of mild to moderate coronavirus patients. "The antiviral offers broad-spectrum RNA virus coverage with clinical improvement noted across age groups 20 to 90 years. Favipiravir can be used in COVID-19 patients with co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease with mild to moderate COVID 19 symptoms," the company said.
Meanwhile, corticosteroid Dexamethasone, believed to be effective in coronavirus treatment, is likely to be the next repurposed drug that may set Indian drug makers like Zydus Cadila, Wockhardt, Cadila Pharmaceuticals, GLS Pharma and Wyeth Ltd to work. The drug is low-cost and is priced at less than Rs 3 for a strip of 10 tablets.
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