Vax hub: All roads lead to Hyderabad

V Rishi Kumar | Updated on March 08, 2021

Hyderabad is winning global accolades for its vaccine manufacturing prowess and inherent strengths in life-sciences R&D

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given a Covid-19 vaccine, it became a shot in the arm for the indigenously developed Covaxin. And, a booster for Hyderabad.

Covaxin is the joint product of the city’s Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The City of Pearls is rapidly burnishing its reputation beyond just its famous biryani, haleem, Osmania biscuit, Irani chai, and laidback lifestyle — it is winning global accolades for its vaccine manufacturing prowess.

Envoys from no fewer than 70 countries have visited Hyderabad to secure vaccine supplies for their citizens.

There are several global alliances at work towards the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines in the city. Biological E Limited has a production alliance with Johnson & Johnson for the latter’s one-shot Covid-19 vaccine, which has just received regulatory approval in the US. Biological E is gearing up to make over a billion doses of different Covid-19 vaccines.

Russia’s Gamaleya Institute has an alliance with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories for the Suptnik V vaccine. And Hetero Biopharma has committed to manufacturing 100 million doses of Sputnik V. Aurobindo has an exclusive alliance with US company COVAXX for a Covid-19 vaccine that it is committed to make for India and the Unicef — nearly 450 million doses per annum.

All this adds up to over 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines a year. And this is set to increase. The accelerated development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics has put Hyderabad’s life-sciences sector in the spotlight. Its position as the Vaccine Capital of the world has been bolstered with investments of ₹3,700 crore in 2020.

Dr Krishna Ella, CMD, Bharat Biotech says, “The pharma companies in Hyderabad are the largest vaccine manufacturers, contributing to 65 per cent of domestic supplies and export of vaccines across the globe. With the Covid vaccines, this position has been further strengthened.”

Bio-pharma legacy

Hyderabad has been a hub for research and the Genome Valley has contributed significantly to its present-day transformation as a centre for drugs and vaccines.

It has to its credit vaccine innovations including the first indigenous vaccines for rotavirus and Japanese encephalitis, and the world’s first typhoid conjugate vaccine. It is home to one of only three producers of the oral non-live cholera vaccine.

“Hyderabad has consolidated its position as a vaccine hub with several companies including Dr Reddy’s and Aurobindo getting into vaccine development, trials and manufacture,” Ella said at the recent BioAsia conclave in Hyderabad.

Satish Reddy, Dr Reddy’s Chairman, adds, “Hyderabad as a pharma and life-sciences hub is projected to grow from a $13-billion to a $50-billion industry by 2030.”

On ‘immunising the world’, Ella adds, “We want to help by export of vaccines. We are keen to be part of WHO’s COVAX.” More than 40 countries have expressed interest in Covaxin, he said, after results from the Phase III trials were recently released.

Says Mahima Datla, MD – Biological E, “We are working on several vaccine candidates with different tie-ups.” These include Baylor College of Medicine, J&J and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). IFC has extended a $30-million loan to facilitate production/supply of vaccines and CEPI was to contribute $5 million and explore additional funding to Biological E for 100 million doses in 2021.

Uphill task

Dr Robin Nandy, Unicef’s Principal Advisor and Chief (Immunisations), says the organisation delivers two billion doses of vaccines per annum. And it expects to deliver about 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines now. “This means we will have to double the capability of deliveries seamlessly.”

Dr Peter Marks, Director, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), US FDA, points out, “Now the focus is on not only ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines across the globe… (but also) manufacture in big numbers. This is where India could play a significant role.”

And, no doubt, Hyderabad will play a critical role in that.

  • Hyderabad accounts for 40 per cent of India’s bulk drug production and 50 per cent of bulk drug exports
  • Telangana, along with Andhra Pradesh, is home to over 2,500 pharmaceutical companies, with more than 200 API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) manufacturing units

Published on March 07, 2021

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