The men behind the vaccines

| Updated on January 21, 2021

As we enter the critical final stages of Covid-19 vaccine development, meet the three men who are spearheading the efforts to protect India from the deadly virus.

As we enter the critical final stages of the Covid-19 vaccine development, meet the three men who are spearheading the most promising efforts in India.


US-educated molecular biologist Dr Krishna Ella is the moving force behind Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, India’s first indigenous vaccine in collaboration with ICMR and the National Institute of Virology. Many are calling it a pressure test for the 72-year-old serial entrepreneur who hails from a family of farmers from Tiruttani, Tamil Nadu. But Ella, who gave us the first locally made Rotavirus vaccine, has always risen to challenges. Ella, who returned from the US in 1996 heeding his mother’s call and set up Bharat Biotech, is passionate about science education — if his vaccine takes off then it would spur many to get into the labs.

If Ella is the self-made vaccine maker, then Adar Poonawalla, the 39-year-old CEO of Pune-based Serum Institute of India, which is making the ChAdOx1 vaccine developed by Oxford University jointly with AstraZeneca, is the inheritor with a vision. His father, Cyrus Poonawalla, who founded Serum Institute, is acknowledged as the ‘vaccine king of India’, but Adar has proved himself to be the ‘prince of protection’. From acquiring Dutch firm Bilthoven Biologicals to launching Serum’s best-seller — the oral polio vaccine — in 2014, he has been expanding the shield against diseases. The Covidshield is one more step in this journey.

Pankaj Patel, chairman of Cadilla Healthcare, ranks among India’s richest with a net worth of over $5 billion. The pharmacy graduate has been leading the company, co-founded by his father, out of Ahmedabad since 1995, catapulting it from a ₹200-crore to a ₹7,104.3-crore company. The 67-year-old pharma magnate’s goal is to convert his firm into a drug discovery major, moving up the value chain from the generics game. Son Sharvil, the firm’s MD, is involved in the manufacture of ZyCov-D, the company’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, which should cement the company’s growth.

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Published on December 07, 2020