Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit the Serum Institute of India and Gennova Biopharmaceuticals — two institutes in Pune in various stages of producing and testing a vaccine against coronavirus — over the weekend to understand the process of vaccine production and distribution.
While Serum Institute is testing and manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals is all set to start Phase 1 human clinical trials of its own vaccine candidate.
Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao said that the local administration and police machinery were waiting for an official communication about the proposed visit of the Prime Minister to Pune. Pune District Collector Rajesh Deshmukh also said the administration was waiting for an official communication about the PM’s visit.
In view of this, a ‘familiarisation visit’ to Pune of foreign ambassadors and high commissioners on November 27 has been postponed to December 4. The foreign ambassadors and high commissioners are also expected to visit the Serum Institute of India and Gennova Biopharmaceuticals during their one-day visit to the city.
Local administration officials, however, said they had started preparing the groundwork for the PM’s visit. Top administrative and police officials from Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad have already held meetings about the various arrangements to be made for the visit of the PM and diplomats to the Serum Institute of India, located in Hadapsar, and Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, located in Hinjewadi.
While final confirmation and the schedule of the PM’s visit was awaited, preparations were underway after preliminary intimation, said officials. “We are yet to receive official communication about the visit, but if the visit happens, it will be at the Serum Institute and Gennova Biopharmaceuticals. The purpose of the visit will be to understand the preparations forvaccine production and distribution,” a senior administration official told The Indian Express.
Senior officials from Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad police jurisdictions also said they were getting ready for the PM’s visit.
Meanwhile, in an email response to queries by The Indian Express, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute, said that Phase 3 trials of the Covishield vaccine were underway. “While UK trial results have been released, we expect the data on the Indian trials to be out within a month or so,” he said.
“We want the vaccine to be affordable and accessible to all. For now, it is at a nominal price range of US $ 5-6 per dose . The Indian government will receive a far more affordable price of US $3-4, since it will be buying the vaccines in a larger volume,” said Poonawalla.
While the doses will be made available to the Indian government on a priority basis, the vaccine will probably be available in private markets post March-April next year, said Poonawalla.
In collaboration with HDT Biotech Corporation in Seattle, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals has worked to develop an mRNA-based vaccine. It is the only Indian company that has worked on making a mRNA-based Covid vaccine.
The first two Covid-19 vaccines to announce Phase 3 results were mRNA-based.
Dr Sanjay Singh, CEO of Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, said they hoped to start Phase 1 human clinical trials in a few weeks, after receiving approval from the Drugs Controller General of India. “We are very slow and simple… going ahead systematically,” Dr Singh told The Indian Express.
“Gennova is introducing a new technology platform. The mRNA-based vaccine needs ultra-low temperatures and we are working on it,” said Dr Singh.
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