Despite being a late-starter on developing a Covid-19 vaccine, Panacea Biotec is optimistic that its candidate would hold its own against competition as it protects across mutations of the Covid-19 as well, said Rajesh Jain, Managing Director of the company.

Panacea has tied-up with United States-based Refana Inc to take forward this vaccine product through an equally partnered joint venture in Ireland.

“Our inactivated virus-based vaccine has strong immunogenicity and neutralising effect against the current strain and mutations. It was tested against 10 strains and found that it created antibodies against them,” Jain told BusinessLine . The company’s stock-price shot up 20 per cent on the development to end at ₹202 on the BSE on Tuesday. “It’s just Day 0,” said Jain, indicating that planning on the pre-clinical and clinical trials etc, will begin now.

Phase I trials

The first human exposure to the vaccine or Phase I of the clinical trial is expected to begin in October. The plan is to create 500 million doses, of which 40 million should be ready by January, he said.

The JV company was based in Ireland, Jain said, because one of Refana’s partner was in Ireland. He added that the country has a pro-pharma ecosystem and was tax-friendly as well. Panacea Biotec will be responsible for product development and commercial manufacturing, while the JV partner would handle clinical development and regulatory submissions across the world. Locked in a revenue-sharing agreement, both Panacea and Refana would market the products in their respective regions. Talks are already underway with multiple governments so they can source the vaccine for citizens, he said.

As the trials progress, Panacea will begin its “at risk” production of the vaccine, Jain said, which would take place at its production facilities in India. While there are about 100-plus Covid vaccine candidates in development, a handful of Indian companies are in the race as well, including Serum Institute, Zydus Cadila and Bharat Biotech. In addition to this, there are a host of Indian companies working on antivirals and other drugs also being tested against Covid-19.

Interestingly Serum Institute and its promoters hold about 14.5 percent equity in Panacea Biotec. Serum is involved with three other Covid vaccine candidates.

Panacea’s promoters hold about 74 percent equity in the company. Last April, India Resurgence Fund, an India-focused investment platform promoted by Piramal Enterprises Limited and Bain Capital Credit had announced an investment of upto Rs 992 crore in Panacea.

According to the Panacea communique, Refana Inc is a registered private corporation focused on finding innovative solutions to global medical problems. And it does so by using a collaborative open source system of research and development.