All about Biological-E’s ‘Corbevax’: India’s cheapest vaccine against coronavirus

The central government has inked a deal with domestic vaccine maker Biological-E for 30 crore doses of its COVID-19 vaccine called Corbevax, which is currently undergoing phase- 3 clinical trials after promising results in phases 1 and 2 clinical trials.

The government has said that it will be making an advance payment of Rs 1,500 crore for the vaccines, the first such order for unapproved shots. It is likely to be available in the next few months, the union health ministry said in a statement issued on June 3.

Once the vaccine gets emergency use approval (EUA) and is launched, it could be the cheapest COVID-19 vaccine available in India, reported News18.

How Corbevax works?

Corbevax, being developed by Biological-E, is a recombinant protein subunit vaccine, which means it comprises a specific part of the novel coronavirus, which is spike protein.

It stands on the same platform as the hepatitis vaccine. Therefore, this two-dose vaccine is tried and tested, unlike the mRNA vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna that are the first of their kind to have been rolled out against any pathogen, it said.

Corbevax only inserts this spike protein from the virus into the human body to achieve an immune response, said the report. As this vaccine uses the spike protein, it is not expected to be harmful as the rest of the virus is absent.

Once this vaccine is administered, when the real virus attempts to infect the body, it will already have an immune response that will help the person not get severely ill.

How is the central government helping in the development of Corbevax?

The government has extended substantial help to get this vaccine out, said the health ministry in the release. The arrangement with Biological-E is part of India’s wider endeavor to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research and development (R&D) and financial support.

“Biological-E COVID Vaccine candidate has been supported by Government of India from preclinical stage to phase-3 studies. Department of Biotechnology has not only provided financial assistance in terms of grant-in-aid of over Rs 100 crore but has also partnered with Biological-E to conduct all animal challenge and assay studies through its Research Institute Translational Health Science Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad,” the release stated.

This has been undertaken as part of the government’s ‘Mission COVID Suraksha, the Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission,’ which was launched to reinforce and accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development efforts as part of the third stimulus package, Atmanirbhar 3.0, the statement said.

The mission aims to bring the citizens a safe, efficacious, affordable, and accessible COVID-19 vaccine. The mission supports the development of 5-6 COVID-19 vaccine candidates, adding that some of these are now closer to licensure and introduction in public health systems.

Why does Corbevax matter?

Once launched, the vaccine is the cheapest COVID-19 vaccine available in India, with the two shots, are expected to be cumulatively priced below Rs 400, as suggested by the News18 report.

At present, India’s drug regulator has given emergency approval to three COVID-19 vaccines – Covishield developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech, and Russia vaccine Sputnik V. All three vaccines cost between Rs 300 and Rs 1,000 per dose, as per the report.

When will Corbevax be launched?

According to the health ministry’s release, these vaccine doses will be manufactured and stockpiled by M/s Biological-E from August to December 2021.

Biological E — the manufacturer of Corbevax

Biological E Limited is a Hyderabad-based pharmaceuticals and biologics company. Founded in 1953, it is the first private sector biological products company in India and the first pharmaceutical company in Southern India. It develops, manufactures, and supplies vaccines and therapeutics. Currently, it has 8 WHO-prequalified vaccines in its portfolio.

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