Serum quickens pace for a dengue vaccine, drug for treating virus

In the meantime, Serum has plans to launch a drug for the mosquito-borne virus.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: December 12, 2015 12:15:00 am

Pune-based Serum Institute of India, world’s fifth-largest vaccine maker by volume, has quickened its pace in launching a drug to treat dengue.

Serum’s efforts to come out with a vaccine have also been given an additional push. “Preliminary work for a dengue vaccine has been completed and animal experiments will commence in July next year,” Dr Rajeev Dhere, executive director of Serum Institute of India, told The Indian Express.

Recently, Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, announced that the Mexican authorities had granted marketing authorisation to Dengvaxia, the first vaccine to be licensed in the world for the prevention of dengue. India has been endemic for dengue infection. “We are working on a vaccine against all four serotypes of dengue and the dose will be a single one aimed at lifelong immunity,” Dhere said. However, the vaccine will take another three to four years, he said. The vaccine is being made in association with a Thailand-based university and National Institutes of Health, USA.

In the meantime, Serum has plans to launch a drug for the mosquito-borne virus. Serum bought exclusive rights from US biotech Visterra to sell its innovative monoclonal antibody, VIS513, as a treatment for dengue in the Indian subcontinent in a deal worth up to $39 million, both companies said earlier this month. Serum, owned by billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla, has sought the Indian government’s approval to import the antibody and conduct clinical trials in India.

At present, there is no dedicated treatment for dengue. Patients are generally asked to rest, drink fluids, and take paracetamol to bring down fever and reduce joint pains. Serum scientists hope that till such time the vaccine is made, the drug can help treat the virus. “It is an antibody therapy. This monoclonal antibody will be injected in a patient confirmed with dengue to neutralise the virus in the blood,” Dhere said. “We are trying our best to complete work on the drug but permissions for clinical trials and other experiments will take a few years,” he added.

Pune doc part of clinical study of world’s 1st dengue vaccine Dr Sharad Agarkhedhar, professor and HOD paediatrics at Dr D. Y. Patil Hospital in Pune, who is also the vice-president of IMA’s Maharashtra chapter and principal investigator of phase-II clinical study of Sanofi Pasteur’s dengue vaccine, said it was a major milestone in the fight against dengue across the world. “I have participated in the Phase-II clinical study in India at five centres in Delhi, Ludhiana, Kolkata, Pune and Bengaluru. This study was conducted in the 18-45 years age group. The India results show that the dengue vaccine, after three doses, was well tolerated and produced antibodies against all four dengue serotypes. There were no cases of severe dengue reported, no deaths and no related serious adverse effects reported during the trial. The Sanofi Pasteur dengue vaccine has a schedule of three doses, given six months apart (at 0, 6 and 12 months).

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