IISc, start-up developing vaccine for Covid-19

M. Ramesh | | Updated on: Apr 17, 2020

A view of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

A view of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.


The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has jumped into the fray to develop a vaccine for coronavirus (Covid-19). A team headed by Dr Raghavan Varadarajan of the Molecular Biophysics Unit of IISc is looking at a bunch of vaccine candidates to determine which is the most efficacious.

Drawing upon previous studies on the 2003 SARS-CoV virus, these studies have shown that the antibodies against the spike glycoprotein found on the surface of the SARS-CoV virus inhibit viral infection. IISc (like some other researchers) is trying to design and test variants of the spike glycoprotein as vaccine candidates.

“With critical, catalytic funding and support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a number of spike protein derivatives have been designed and characterised at IISc,” says a statement on the IISc website. The team is seeking ₹15 crore funding for the effort.

Currently, these vaccine candidates are being tested in animal models through Mynvax, a start-up jointly founded by Dr Varadarajan and one Dr Gautham Nadig.

“The design which shows the best results in animals will be advanced to development of production technology, safety and toxicity testing, followed by GMP manufacturing for use in Phase-1 clinical trials,” says the statement.

The team estimates that at least 10 crore doses would be required to meet India’s requirement if the SARS-CoV-2 infection persists for the medium to long term. It has given itself four months to identify a first generation vaccine candidate, develop production technology in eight months and begin human clinical trials in a year.

“It is a long journey but we are trying to do some work,” Dr Nadig told BusinessLine , stressing that the effort is still at a “very early stage of development”.

Vaccine development usually takes between 24 and 30 months to reach a human clinical trial (Phase-2). A good understanding of the safety profile of the vaccine is an extremely important aspect of vaccine development, especially so, since it is given to healthy people. This takes time and a reasonably wide human testing on healthy volunteers.

However, in the current emergency situation, governments are trying to advance vaccines with great urgency, because of the rather high infectivity and mortality rate of Covid-19.

Published on April 17, 2020

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