Indian pharmas working towards Omicron-specific vaccine: NK Arora, NTAGI Chief

Monika Yadav | | Updated on: Mar 09, 2022

The need for a new vaccine arises in light of current vaccines—Covishield and Covaxin—not being able to create enough neutralising antibodies against Omicron

Indian pharma companies are working towards variant specific vaccine as the Omicron variant evades immunity generated through two vaccine doses, according to NK Arora, Chief of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI).

In an interaction with the BusinessLine, he said that Gennova Biopharmaceuticals’s mRNA vaccine specifically made for Omicron variant is in the final clinical trial stage, besides two other Indian companies’ vaccines which are in their initial laboratory stage. The initial results of the clinical trials of Gennova vaccine will likely be out in the next 4 weeks, he said.

“Gennova Biopharmaceuticals started working on Omicron-specific mRNA vaccine soon after the virus entered India. I am given to understand they are ready for early human trials for its effectiveness. Besides this, at least two other Indian companies are also working on similar variant specific vaccines,” Arora told BusinessLine. He said that Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India are in the initial laboratory stages for the variant-specific vaccines. Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) are also collaborating with these pharma companies to develop these vaccines. 

“The need for a new vaccine arises in light of current vaccines—Covishield and Covaxin—not being able to create enough neutralising antibodies against the Omicron variant. Both these vaccines create several fold more antibodies for the Delta variant. Moreover, the current vaccines help only in preventing severity of diseases,” said Arora. 

“The Omicron variant is quite different from the former variants of concern. Mutations made Omicron highly infectious but not so virulent that it would cause any serious disease. The rapid occurrence in Covid virus variants during the last two years and variants like Delta causing severe disease and mortality is worrisome.  Scientists across the globe are working towards a pan corona vaccine which can take care of variants arising in future,” Arora stated. 

India was hit by the Omicron variant in December 2021 and it spread rapidly in the country bringing on a third wave. On January 21, Omicron cases peaked out by registering as many as 3.47 lakh infections in a single day. It was first discovered in South Africa in November 2022.

Published on March 09, 2022
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