Hopeful of launching Covovax for adults in October this year, for children in Q1-2022: Serum CEO

By Express News Service

Two leading biotech players, Bengaluru based Biocon Biologics Limited and Pune based Serum Institute Life Sciences Private Limited have come together with a strategic alliance in a bid to increase vaccines and antibody therapeutics access for developing countries, for infectious diseases including Covid-19, dengue and HIV among others.

As part of the deal, the BBL has offered 15% stake to SILS at a post money valuation of $4.9 billion in exchange for committed access to 100 million doses of vaccines per annul for 15 years.

Announcing this at a joint press meet held on Friday, Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and SII chief executive Adar Poonawalla said, the partnership aims to complement the strengths and resources of the two leading players and make a significant impact on global healthcare through vaccines and biologics.

“BBL will commercialise Serum institute’s vaccine portfolio including COVID 19 vaccines for global markets and this would also be an additional growth driving for BBL. Research and manufacturing infrastructure will also be leveraged by this partnership for various opportunities in infectious diseases, ” Shaw said.

Speaking at the press meet, Poonawala said SII had to delay its plans to work on and produce monoclonal therapies for Covid due to the huge demand of Covishield vaccine production, and the new tie-up aims to address this. 

More in the pipeline

The duo stressed that the synergistic future oriented deal will help growth of both companies, as it will provide Biocon an opportunity to enter into the vaccine space, whereas Serum can leverage BBL’s expertise in areas like monoclonal antibodies (mABs), m-RNA technologies and biosimilars.

Adding that there is more to the partnership than just the 100 million vaccines that has been talked about, Poonawala said that, “The opportunities are limitless and we will look at monoclonals and other therapeutics. Additional business partnerships and alliances in addition to the 100 million vaccines we have talked about will also be looked into,” Poonawala said.

Biocon Biologics will also establish a vaccine research and development division to support the alliance in developing both vaccines and biologics for communicable diseases.

Additionally, wherever possible, it will make available its cell culture and sterile fill and finish capacities for vaccine production under the alliance. 

He also stressed that both the partners also wanted to make investments in strengthening the raw material chain, as many of these raw materials manufacturers are finding it hard to scale up and match the vaccine manufacturing supply.

“We will make investment in raw material manufacturing as well — so that we are fully self-reliant,” Poonawala said, adding that these supply chains will be established in the country.

Mazumdar-Shaw said the long term partnership will try to ensure that Indian drug manufacturers do not face supply chain disruptions in future. 

Initial focus on COVID 

Meanwhile Poonawala made it clear that the initial additional capacities will be focused on COVID vaccines for the obvious reason of demand to provide to not just India but other countries too.

“Initially it would make sense that whatever firepower and additional capacity we can leverage from biocon biologics including the first 100 MN doses annually will be focused on COVID vaccines but there is a huge pipeline of vaccines for malaria, HPV etc, thereafter that will benefit from the partnership,” Poonawala explained.

He added that Biocon has extensive marketing infrastructure in developed markets, an area Serum can explore to take its vaccines and other products to those markets through this alliance. At present most of Serum’s products are supplied across the world through public health agencies like WHO-UNICEF and other such agencies