The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has announced the scientific completion of India’s first indigenously developed cervical cancer vaccine. The quadrivalent human papillomavirus (qHPV) vaccine (types 6,11,16, and 18) protects against cervical cancer and genital warts.
The HPV vaccine, expected to be rolled out in a couple of months, has been developed by Serum Institute of India, and Serum Institute Chief Executive, Adar Poonawalla says it could be priced between ₹200 and ₹400, though the price was still to be finalised. The vaccine received marketing authorization approval from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), in the second week of July.
The development of the vaccine has been supported by the DBT through its Grand Challenges India initiative and implemented by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).
Cervical cancer is a leading cause of female cancer mortality worldwide, and disproportionately affects women, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), an official note on the development said. “Four-fifths of the nearly 2,75,000 annual cervical cancer-related deaths occur in LMICs where routine gynaecological screening is minimal or absent,” it added.
HPV infection is responsible for more than 95 percent of cervical cancers worldwide. And, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer of women in India despite being largely preventable.
Dosages and affordability
The vaccine will be in two-doses for 9-14 year-olds and as a three-dose schedule for 15-26 year-olds. The Indian vaccine is expected to be available at an affordable cost, the DBT note said.
DBT has been providing support for various vaccine innovations in the country, working towards a supportive enabling environment for greater science and research into vaccines. Dr Rajesh S Gokhale, Secretary DBT and Chairperson BIRAC, said in a statement that it was a “much-needed low-cost, affordable quadrivalent HPV vaccine that will help prevent cervical cancer deaths in India and globally.”