Days after Israel announced a breakthrough regarding a Covid-19 vaccine, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Saturday announced a tie-up with Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL) to develop a fully indigenous vaccine using the virus strain isolated at the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.
“Work on vaccine development has been initiated between the two partners. The ICMR-NIV will provide continuous support to BBIL for vaccine development. ICMR and BBIL will seek fast-track approvals to expedite vaccine development, subsequent animal studies and clinical evaluation of the candidate vaccine,” the apex health research body said in a statement.
The strain has been successfully transferred from NIV to BBIL, it added.
Over 40 vaccine candidates are currently in various stages of development around the world to fight Covid-19 pandemic. In India, the novel coronavirus has so far claimed 1,981 lives in the country as the total number of cases near the 60,000 mark.
Recently, the University of Oxford announced that researchers there had started testing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease. The Serum Institute of India, one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world, is a partner for the production of the vaccine in preparation for the trials.
Until the Oxford announcement, one of the most promising candidates was believed to be one developed by Moderna, a biotechnology company, that is now into phase I clinical trials under the aegis of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Why a coronavirus vaccine is important?
Vaccines are important because a lot of resources are saved in preventing disease and not having to treat it. Vaccines have been key to the elimination of once dreaded diseases such as smallpox.
Another candidate vaccine is being tested by Hong Kong-listed biotech firm CanSino Biologics. Having started after the NIH trials, the company last week announced that phase I trials have been cleared and the vaccine is moving into phase II of the trial “based on the preliminary safety data of Phase I clinical trial”. The results of that trial have not been made public.