The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations or CEPI, in collaboration with Ind-CEPI, has announced a new partnering agreement with a consortium comprising Bharat Biotech and the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) to advance the development of a Chikungunya vaccine. A release put out by Bharat Biotech says, the CEPI will fund the consortium with up to $14.1 million for vaccine manufacturing and clinical development of a two-dose live-inactivated vaccine (BBV87) against Chikungunya. Those in the industry, however, say efforts to develop this vaccine are on in other countries too and the development announced today has been in the works since the pre-COVID days and seems to have fructified now. Some also argue that in today's context, it is not quite an emergency vaccine compared to others, but Chikungunya vaccine is certainly important for India.
This grant is supported by the European Union (EU)'s Horizon 2020 programme through an existing framework partnership agreement with CEPI. The consortium will be further supported with a grant of up to $2 million from the government's Ind-CEPI initiative which will fund the set-up of GMP manufacturing facilities for the vaccine in India, and the subsequent manufacture of clinical trial materials.
In addition to manufacturing, the note says, the partnering agreement will finance a multi-centre Phase 2/3 adaptive clinical trial to be conducted by IVI in Colombia, Panama and Thailand, which will provide crucial data about the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine candidate.
There is no detailing in terms of the timeline and by when one could expect the vaccine.
According to Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, Chikungunya continues to be a threat to public health in countries around the globe. "It is a painful and debilitating disease for which there is no licensed vaccine or treatment. Through this partnership with Bharat Biotech and IVI we will accelerate the clinical development of the Chikungunya vaccine candidate, with the aim of producing a vaccine and making it accessible to those most affected by the disease," he says.
Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and Chairperson, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) says: "Chikungunya has emerged as an important public health problem in India. The development of an effective Chikungunya vaccine will be a game changer in the global health sector. Under the Ind-CEPI mission, the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India will support Bharat Biotech for this collaborative project, the first initiative of this mission, to expedite the development of Chikungunya vaccine."
Dr. Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Biotech makes an important point. "We are witnessing that today's neglected diseases are susceptible to become tomorrow's pandemics and with this collaboration we have the opportunity to tackle them proactively."
Bharat Biotech has also been in the news for its involvement in the vaccine development for COVID-19. Early last month, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had announced that the ICMR and Bharat Biotech had partnered to develop a fully indigenous vaccine for COVID-19 using the virus strain isolated at ICMR's National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. ICMR further said that the work on vaccine development has been initiated between the two partners. "ICMR-NIV will provide continuous support to Bharat Biotech for vaccine development. ICMR and Bharat Biotech will seek fast-track approvals to expedite vaccine development, subsequent animal studies and clinical evaluation of the candidate vaccine."Infosys' crorepati employees count jumps to 74 in FY20
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