Indian billionaires bet big on head start in coronavir s vaccine race
PUNE: In early May, an extremely well-sealed steel box arrived at the cold room of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker.
Inside, packed in dry ice, sat a tiny 1-milliliter vial from Oxford, England, containing the cellular material for one of the world’s most promising coronavir s vaccines.
Scientists in white lab coats brought the vial to Building 14, carefully poured the contents into a flask, added a medium of vitamins and sugar and began growing billions of cells. Thus began one of the biggest gambles yet in the quest to find the vaccine that will bring the world’s Covid-19 nightmare to an end.
The Serum Institute, which is exclusively controlled by a small and fabulously rich Indian family and started out years ago as a horse farm, is doing what a few other companies in the race for a vaccine are doing: mass-producing hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine candidate that is still in trials and might not even work.
But if it does, Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive and the only child of the company’s founder, will become one of the most tugged-at men in the world. He will have on hand what everyone wants, possibly in greater quantities before anyone else.
His company, which has teamed up with the Oxford scientists develo the vaccine, was one of the first to boldly announce, in April, that it was going to mass-produce a vaccine before clinical trials even ended. Now, Poonawalla’s fastest vaccine assembly lines are being readied to crank out 500 doses each minute, and his phone rings endlessly.
National health ministers, prime ministers and other heads of state (he wouldn’t say who) and friends he hasn’t heard from in years have been calling him, he said, begging for the first batches.
“I’ve had to expn to them that, ‘Look, I can’t just give it to you like this,’” he said.
With the coronavir s pandemic turning the world upside down and all hopes ned on a vaccine, the Serum Institute finds itself in the middle of an extremely competitive and murky endeavor. To get the vaccine out as soon as possible, vaccine developers say they need Serum’s mammoth assembly lines — each year, it churns out 1.5 billion doses of other vaccines, mostly for poor countries, more than any other company.
Half of the world’s children have been vaccinated with Serum’s products. Scale is its specialty. Just the other day, Poonawalla received a shipment of 600 million glass vials.
But now it’s not entirely clear how much of the coronavir s vaccine that Serum will mass-produce will be kept by India or who will fund its production, leaving the Poonawallas to navigate a torrent of cross-pressures, po itical, financial, external and domestic.
India has been walloped by the coronavir s, and with 1.3 billion people, it needs vaccine doses as much as anywhere. The Narendra Modi go nment has already blocked exports of drugs that were believed to help treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavir s.
Poonawalla, 39, says that he will sp t the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses he produces 50-50 between India and the rest of the world, with a focus on poorer countries, and that Modi’s go nment has not objected to this.
The Oxford-designed vaccine is just one of several promising contenders that will soon be mass-produced, in different factories around the world, before they are proven to work. Vaccines take time not just to perfect but to manufacture. Live cultures need weeks to grow inside bioreactors, for instance, and each vial needs to be carefully cleaned, filled, stoppered, sealed and packaged.
The idea is to conduct these two processes simultaneously and start production now, while the vaccines are still in trials, so that as soon as the trials are finished — at best within the next six months, though no one really knows — vaccine doses will be on hand, ready for a world desperate to prect itself.
US and European go nments have committed billions of dollars to this effort, cutting deals with pharmaceutical giants such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Sanofi and AstraZeneca to speed up the development and production of s vaccine candidates in exchange for hundreds of millions of doses.
AstraZeneca is the lead partner with the Oxford scientists, and it has signed go nment contracts worth more than $1 billion to manufacture the vaccine for Europe, the US and other markets. But it has allowed the Serum Institute to produce it as well. The difference, Poonawalla said, is that his company is shouldering the cost of production on its own.
But Serum is distinct from all other major vaccine producers in an important way. Like many highly successful Indian businesses, it is family run. It can make decisions quickly and take big risks, like the one it’s about to, which could cost the family hundreds of millions of dollars.
Poonawalla said he was “70 to 80%” sure the Oxford vaccine would work.
But, he added, “I hope we don’t go in too deep.”
译文来源：三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/p/50478.html 译者：Jessica.Wu
Charge a hefty premium from countries like Nepal Pakistan . Let them beg for it.
Alcohol Kills Ganja Chills
The Poonawalla’s have put up $450 million of their own money. This family is one of the most philanthropic family. Dr. Poonawalla deserves Nobel Prize
Superb. Finally a good news. Also this news makes happy all Indians, as the vaccine is going to be produced in Pune, India. I am proud to be an Indian. Wherever the vaccine is getting produced, finally if it is useful to the humanity all over, I am 'doubly' happy.
he deserves civilian award.
it is nice to read that some ppl are doing things for mankind without any limelight. we should salute them.
Nice to see there is an Indian entrepreneur taking bold risk in the field of pharmaceutical manufacturing and also determined to support poor countries around the world for Covid19 vaccine. God help him in his efforts.
already has produced the vaccine
Risky but equally rewarding step by serum institute
Modi go nment should provide a billion dollars funds to Serum Institute to make covid vaccines for india.
Good. But I would have been happier if that 1 ml vial had come from somewhere within India, instead of Oxford. How long shall we continue with that "technology receiver" syndrome?
There is no R&D in India.
We need to find a way to stop the vir s spread .
Charge 100 times more money from and pakistaan...All the best...
Do not give it to Pakistan unless they stop cross border te rorm. They cannot keep killing our soliders and expect us to give them any vaccines.
Pakistan has controlled Covid with just 700 cases per day.
Thanks to Modiji for opening Serum Institute of India. Scamgress had only loed and filled their coffers. Under the able guidance of Modiji in few months vaccine will be available. Salute to the true son of soil.
Alcohol Kills Ganja Chills
By the time Vaccines are out , Corona would be dissapeared on it's own.
Tukaram B Pujari
Poonaw, Maharashtra first and in that Pune first
jai shree ram
entire conspiracy theory is getting clear day by day
Let us wait for sometime. Don't count the eggs before they are hatched..
Still Oxford vaccine is not confirmed its success.
Let's wait and watch.
India and drug manufacturing is a sham. And this would be no exception.