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India's COVID-19 vaccine hunt gains steam! Zydus Cadila to begin Phase II trials this week

The vaccine, using the platform of plasmid DNA, was found to be safe and well tolerated in the Phase I, which began on 15 July, said Zydus Cadila

twitter-logoPB Jayakumar | August 5, 2020 | Updated 13:26 IST
India's COVID-19 vaccine hunt gains steam! Zydus Cadila to begin Phase II trials this week

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • ZyCoV-D  vaccine second phase trials to begin on August 6
  • The DNA plasmid platform vaccine is more safe and easy to make, if successful
  • First phase trial data from July 15 has been cleared by Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB)
  • This is the third vaccine trial in India to move to second phase after Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute
Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila's ZyCoV-D Covid vaccine, targeted to hit markets by early next year, has successfully cleared the first phase of clinical trials. Second phase of human clinical trials, involving 1,000 volunteers, will begin on August 6.  The vaccine, using the platform of plasmid DNA, was found to be safe and well tolerated in the Phase I, which began on 15 July, said Zydus Cadila.

"All the subjects in Phase I clinical trial were closely monitored in a clinical pharmacological unit for 24 hours post dosing for safety and for 7 days thereafter and vaccine was found to be very safe. We now begin the Phase II clinical trials and look forward to evaluating the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine in a larger population," said Pankaj Patel, chairman, Zydus Cadila. The seven-day safety of the vaccine in all the subjects enrolled in the Phase I clinical trial has been endorsed by the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), constituted to oversee the safety aspects of the clinical trial, said Zydus.

ALSO READ: Zydus Cadila's coronavirus vaccine clears Phase I; Phase II trials to start tomorrow

Experts say if successful, Zydus's vaccine will be easy to make as it uses the plasmid DNA platform. A plasmid is a small DNA molecule within a cell that is physically separated from chromosomal DNA and can be replicated independently. When the plasmid DNA is introduced into the host cells, it translates into viral protein and elicits a strong immune response.

It is safer since it is a non-replicating and non-integrating plasmid carrying the gene of interest. Also, no vector response or infectious agents are used in the development technology. It is easy to make with minimal biosafety requirements (BSL-1) and has lower cold chain requirements, making it easy for transportation to remote regions. Further, the platform can be rapidly used to modify the vaccine within couple of weeks in case the virus mutates.

Zydus had developed India's first swine flu vaccine in 2010, and later a tetravalent seasonal influenza vaccine and a Varicella vaccine.

ALSO READ: Brazil likely to struggle in producing own COVID-19 vaccine

Among half-a-dozen promising COVID-19 vaccine projects are underway in India, and at least three have reached clinical trial stage. Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)'s Covaxin has completed its phase I study in 11 sites and is starting the second phase study. Serum Institute of India has also been given a go ahead by the Indian drug regulator to start the final phase II/III trials of the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine in India.

Zydus Cadila is also developing a vector platform based vaccine. Serum Institute is researching a BCG vaccine, besides a collaborative programme with a US partner. Companies like Biological E and Hester Biosciences are also trying to develop COVID-19 vaccine. Drug major Wockhardt has announced an agreement with the UK Government to manufacture vaccines, mainly being developed by Oxford-Astra Zeneca and GSK-Sanofi research programmes.

ALSO READ: Coronavirus treatment: Lupin launches Favipiravir for Rs 49 per tablet; names drug Covihalt

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