As part of the agreement SII will also get upfront capital of $150 mn via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help the company increase manufacturing capacity now so that, once a vaccine, or vaccines, gains regulatory approval and WHO prequalification, doses can be produced at scale for distribution under the COVAX agreement.
The funding will support at-risk manufacturing by SII for candidate vaccines from AstraZeneca (AZ) and Novavax.
“This collaboration gives the world some of both: the power of India’s manufacturing sector and Gavi’s supply chain. It’s just a start. Organizations like Gavi and CEPI need much more support to facilitate development and delivery of hundreds of millions – maybe billions – of vaccine doses by next year,” said Bill Gates, Co Chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
SII has signed two agreements for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, the first being AstraZeneca-Oxford’s candidate, for which the company has agreed to produce up to 1 billion doses for low and middle-income countries. The Oxford University vaccine candidate has received permission to start phase 2 and 3 trials in India last week. The second agreement with US based Novavax that has granted the company exclusive and non-exclusive licences for development, co-formulation, filling and finishing, registration and commercialisation of its NVX-CoV2373 vaccine product for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Novavax trials are yet to start in India.
“The rampant spread of the virus has rendered the entire world in an unimaginable halt of uncertainty. And to ensure maximum immunization coverage and contain the pandemic, it is important to make sure that the most remote and poorest countries of the world have access to affordable cure and preventive measures. Through this association, we seek to ramp up our constant efforts to save the lives of millions of people from this dreadful disease.” said Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII
The Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) is currently seeking at least US$ 2 billion in initial seed funding, and will meet at least part of the cost of procurement for the vaccine doses. Last week the Gavi Board agreed the final list of 92 countries that will be supported by the AMC. Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine, if successful, will be available to 57 Gavi-eligible countries. Novavax’s candidate, if successful, will be available to all 92 countries supported by the AMC.
In an exclusive interview to ET last week Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI said that the organisation is in talks with several other Indian vaccine companies for a similar tie up like the one it has entered into with SII-AZ.
Renu Swarup, Secretary Department of Biotechnology said that India has a proven track record of manufacturing safe and cost-effective vaccines not only for India, but for the world. “Over the last decade, Government of India has encouraged innovation, and supported the Indian vaccine industry to manufacture high quality, affordable indigenous tools and products to benefit India and the world”, Swarup added.