India’s nickname as the “pharmacy of the world” is well-deserved, as it happens to be a powerhouse when it comes to research and development of drugs. It is a fact that one in three pills consumed in the U.S. is manufactured in India. Indian factories provide for more than half the globe’s total vaccine supply, and also produce more generic drugs than any other country in the world. Because of these reasons, India is most likely to be an essential player when it comes to the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccine. Already, there are Indian biotech and biopharma companies leading the research for a Covid vaccine. At least seven Indian pharmaceutical companies have been working since the beginning of the pandemic to develop a vaccine, and some have already started out huan trials. Here are the top 5 biotech Indian companies to look out for post pandemic :
Serum Institute of India
Founded by Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966 to manufacture vaccines, Serum Institute of India in Pune has emerged as a leading producer of pediatric vaccines in the world. It is also one of the largest global producers of measles and DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertus- sis) vaccines, and it is a fact that every second child born in the world gets the first vaccination with products made at the Serum Institute. Its products are exported to over 170 countries, and these products were also supplied to international health agencies like WHO, UNICEF, and PAHO (Pan Ameri- can Health Organization). The vaccines produced at the Serum Institute are used in the national immunization programs of several countries. In light of the pandemic, it has tied-up with American biotechnology firm Codagenix to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
Biocon, one of India’s leading Biotech companies, is focussed on building a global base through new drug developments, discoveries, and services. It started in a garage in a Bangalore suburb in 1978 to manufacture industrial enzymes, and has now emerged as one of the companies to watch out for in the next decade. Its founder, Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, also happens to be the most visible face of women entrepreneurs in India. The company is currently developing an oral version of insulin to change the way diabetes is treated. The phase 2 trials of oral insulin are currently running, and following the regulatory approval for the phase 3 trials, Biocon has become one of the top 5 Indian biotech companies to look out for, even post-pandemic. Paraphrasing Biocon Chairman and Managing Director, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw – “Biocon’s operational per- formance remains on a growth track. At a time when many sectors face a severe slowdown, we believe that Biocon has a unique opportunity to leverage our affordable R&D base and forge partnerships that will deliver large contract research, manufacturing and co-development opportunities over the next 5 years.” In 2007, Biocon acquired a 70% controlling stake in AxiCorp GmbH, a German Pharma company, enabling Biocon to market and distribute a range of pharmaceuticals across Europe and Germany.
The company is now working on a next-generation biotech drug in the global fight against Covid-19.
Panacea Biotec Ltd
As an innovation-driven Biotechnology company, Panacea Biotec Ltd. is involved in R&D, manufacturing, sales, distribution and marketing of various biosimilars, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines.
It began in the year 1984, under the name of Panacea Drugs Private Limited to create affordable, innovative products accessible for the general population. It got listed as an IPO on the Indian National Stock Exchanges in September 1995 as Panacea Biotec Ltd.
The company has built state-of-art production facilities at Baddi (Himachal Pradesh), Lalru (Punjab) & Delhi for the manufacture of capsules (including soft gelatin), tablets, ointments (including transgel formulation) herbal formulations as well as vaccines. The facilities are WHO cGMP compliant.
The company is expected to partner with Refana Inc (U.S.-based) to make a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The company said in an email statement, “We continue to evaluate candidate vaccines in pre-clinical investigations in accordance with (our) timeline. We do not envisage the commencement of clinical studies until September this year,” with reference to production targets of 500 million doses for 2021, plus one billion doses in 2022 for its COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine will be based on a technology that is well known to make vaccines against diseases like influenza and measles to create an inactivated Covid-19 vaccine.
As the developer of India’s main homegrown coronavirus vaccine, Bharat Biotech is a company to look out for. It has already produced about 10 million doses of its still-in-trials Covaxin shot, and has a current annual capacity of 300 million vaccines.
“We have started producing at risk because we know that it will be an uphill task – in the Indian context it’s small,” said Suchitra Ella, joint managing director of Bharat Biotech International Ltd in another interview. She added that the challenge to develop and distribute hundreds of millions of doses to vaccinate just half the country is a daunting task.
In its attempts to curb the spread of the world’s second-largest coronavirus outbreak, India will most likely depend on the two-dose vaccines manufactured by Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India Ltd.
Further, Bharat Biotech and Ocugen Inc. have agreed to co-develop Covaxin for the U.S. market.
Mynvax was founded by Raghavan Varadarajan in 2017, and its focus is on developing next-generation vaccines for influenza.
Originally incubated by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru, Mynvax is currently working with IISc scientists to develop an anti-Covid 19 vaccine. It has developed several candidate immunogens and completed animal trials, but is expecting a roll-out time of about 18 months to develop a vaccine that is safe and effective for human use.