Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bharat Biotech gets breakthrough in developing Zika vaccine

HYDERABAD: A day after the World Health Organization declared outbreak of mosquito-borne Zika virus as a global health emergency, city-headquartered biotechnology firm Bharat Biotech (Dr Krishna Ella Managing Director) claimed significant progress on two of its promising vaccines for Zika infection. 

Of the 23 countries affected by the deadly Zika virus so far, Brazil is the hardest-hit nation, reporting 3,530 cases of a devastating birth defect called microcephaly after pregnant women were affected. 

Bharat Biotech's chief managing director Dr Krishna Ella said his firm has been working on the virus for a year and one of the vaccines has now reached the stage of pre-clinical testing in animals. While one is a recombinant vaccine, the other is an inactivated one. 

The former is produced through recombinant DNA technology, while the latter is generated using virus particles through a process of growing the virus in culture. 

Ella said his company, which had invested over $150 million since inception to build a portfolio of vaccines for region-specific neglected diseases, has 'an early mover advantage' in developing the Zika vaccine. 

Claiming to have filed for a global patent for Zika vaccines (Zikavac) in July last year, he said his company was probably the first in the world to do so. The company that holds a portfolio of 50 patents, has so far delivered over 3 billion doses of vaccines to more than 65 countries across the Globe.

However, Ella said it could take at least two years to launch the Zika vaccine, provided the government takes an aggressive stand on expeditious regulatory approvals after declaring a national emergency. "In the normal course, it takes 7-8 years for the vaccine to reach the market." 

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