- India's Wockhardt and the Serum Institute of India have lined up new deals to help ramp up the production of two coronavirus vaccines advancing quickly through clinical testing.
- Wockhardt's 18-month agreement with the U.K. government covers fill/finish work for a vaccine under development by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. The Serum Institute, meanwhile, entered a wide-ranging pact with Maryland-based Novavax, covering development, production and commercial licensing of its experimental shot.
- India is already a key supplier to the global drug industry, producing pharmaceutical ingredients, vaccines and other medicines. The two agreements boost the country's role in making the likely billions of needed doses of coronavirus vaccines, a task being shouldered by nations around the world.
As governments and companies race to make enough doses of coronavirus vaccines to inoculate billions of people around the world, India is in the spotlight. The Serum Institute, for instance, is preparing assembly lines that will be able to produce 500 doses of vaccine each minute, according to The New York Times.
Under the agreement, the Serum Institute gets exclusive rights to Novavax's vaccine candidate in India and non-exclusive rights in developing countries. Novavax retains the rights to its vaccine in countries designated by the World Bank as upper-middle or high-income countries.
The deal comes just two days after Novavax presented its first results from an early-stage trial. Like rival vaccines further along in development, the company reported immune responses in healthy volunteers greater than those seen in the blood of patients who had recovered from COVID-19.
The Serum Institute is also helping AstraZeneca supply the vaccine candidate it's been developing with the University of Oxford. A licensing agreement in June covers the supply of 1 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries, including 400 million by the end of the year.
The new U.K. deal with Wockhardt, meanwhile, covers the step in manufacturing that fills glass vials with vaccine product before distribution. The government said the agreement "will help ensure that people in the U.K. can receive a safe and effective vaccine as quickly as possible once one becomes available."
Wockhardt will use its factory in North Wales to handle the work.
AstraZeneca, which has promised to provide its vaccine at cost during the pandemic, has started late-stage trials of its candidate in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa. As with Novavax's candidate, preliminary research suggests the vaccine might be safe and can spur an immune response against the coronavirus.
It's still unclear whether either, however, can protect people from infection or COVID-19.