India’s Serum Institute of India, the world’s busiest vaccine manufacturer as measured by volume, emerges as a worldwide key player in the battle against COVID-19. A major partnership was put together thanks to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Serum Institute of India. The initial seed funding will be injected into Serum Institute of India to commence “at-risk” vaccine candidate manufacturing to accelerate the production of up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for India and other low to middle-income countries (LMICs).
The world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, Serum Institute of India, reports a landmark deal with GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a bid to accelerate the production and distribution of up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for India and low to middle-income countries, also known as LMICs.
Not all details were shared, but what is known is that Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will inject capital (including $150m from Gates) into the Serum Institute of India to augment the manufacturing capacity currently, enabling rapid scale production upon regulatory approval and World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification. The goal would be to move ahead full throttle in the first half of 2021.
At-Risk Model & Economical Price Points
The funding supports the so-called “At Risk” manufacturing model, where Serum Institute of India can commence manufacturing even before vaccines from both AstraZeneca (Oxford) and Novavax are approved. The AstraZeneca vaccine in India is also known as the Oxford vaccine, or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (branded as Covishield in India). If the vaccines are approved, then the product will be available from the Serum Institute for US$3 per dose in countries such as India (Rs 225).
Serum Institute of India Comments
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, commented on this partnership, “In an attempt to make our fight against COVID-19 stronger and all-embracing: Serum Institute of India has partnered with Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of future COVID-19 vaccines in India and low and middle-income countries in 2021.” The CEO continued, “The rampant spread of the virus has rendered the entire world in an unimaginable halt of uncertainty. And to ensure maximum immunization coverage and contain the pandemic, it is important to make sure that the most remote and poorest countries of the world have access to affordable cure and preventive measures. Through this association, we seek to ramp up our constant efforts to save the lives of millions of people from this dreadful disease.”
A History of Partnership
Serum Institute of India has a long history of successful partnerships with Gavi and pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines that protect against meningitis, severe diarrhea, pneumonia, and measles. This collaboration further underscores India’s proven track-record in developing safe and quality vaccines.
GAVI COVAX AMC
This coalition is currently seeking at least US$2 billion in initial seed funding to meet at least part of the cost of procurement for the vaccine doses. Last week the Gavi Board agreed to the final list of 92 countries that will be supported by the AMC. Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine (AZD1222), if successful, will be available to 57 Gavi-eligible countries. The Novavax candidate, if successful, will be available to all 92 countries supported by the AMC.
COVAX ACT Accelerator vaccine pillar is an effort led by Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The central thesis centers on the reality that the development of a vaccine against COVID-19 is the most pressing challenge of this era. With the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, billions of people disrupted, and economic losses in the hundreds of billions, if not more, the development of a safe and effective vaccine is the most important mission now.
The collaboration between Gavi, Serum Institute of India, and the Gates Foundation supports the efforts of the ACT Accelerators vaccines pillar, thus accelerating the development of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure rapid global access to them. When and how manufacturing occurs is led by these organizations.
According to the Serum Institute of India’s press release, Gavi takes the lead of the COVAX facility which provides governments with the opportunity to benefit from a large portfolio of COVID-19 candidate vaccines using a range of technology platforms produced by more manufacturers across the world, offering a bigger market to provide security of demand. The Facility is reinforced by the AMC, which provides funding for vaccines for lower-income countries.
Bill & Melinda Gates Contribution
Under their strategic investment fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide at-risk funding of US$150 million to Gavi, which will be used to support Serum Institute of India in manufacturing potential vaccine candidates, and for future procurement of vaccines for low-and middle-income countries via Gavi’s COVAX AMC. This deal builds on a memorandum of understanding between AstraZeneca and Gavi, announced in June, which will guarantee 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine (AZD1222) to a wider COVAX Facility to be supplied upon licensure or prequalification. As Serum Institute of India reports, these two deals can help guarantee access to early doses for the most vulnerable on a truly global scale.
About the Serum Institute of India
Driven by the philanthropic philosophy of affordable vaccines, Serum Institute of India Pvt, Ltd. (SIIPL) is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by the number of doses produced and sold globally (more than 1.5 billion doses), supplying the world’s cheapest and WHO accredited vaccines to as many as 170 countries. It was founded in 1966 with the aim of manufacturing lifesaving immunobiological drugs, including vaccines worldwide. With a strong commitment towards global health, the institute’s objective has been proliferated by bringing down the prices of newer vaccines such as Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, BCG, r-Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccines. SII is credited with bringing world-class technology to India through its state-of-the-art equipped multi-functional production facility in Manjri, Pune; association with Zipline and government agencies to transform emergency medicine and critical care along with spearheading the race of vaccine development against the COVID-19 pandemic