Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad based vaccines and bio-therapeutic manufacturer, claims it has made a breakthrough in developing the world’s first vaccine against the dreaded mosquito-borne Zika virus.
The World Health Organization recently announced that Zika, which causes serious birth defects in children, is now present in 23 countries. Brazil has the maximum number of cases (3,530) and the United States too announced its first case yesterday.
There is concern that the virus could soon spread to Asia and Africa as well. India too is not as safe as hoped, although the virus was last seen here over 60 years ago.
The virus causes only a mild illness in most people. However, in pregnant women it is linked to abnormally small heads in their babies, a birth defect called microcephaly.
Bharat Biotech International Limited in Hyderabad told NDTV that they have patented the vaccine.
“On Zika, we are probably the first vaccine company in the world to file a vaccine candidate patent about nine months ago,” said Dr Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Biotech Ltd.
The company used a live Zika virus, imported officially, to develop not one but two candidate vaccines.
Dr. Ella says the company has sought help from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to get this vaccine out to the world as soon as possible.
“We have just been informed about the Zika vaccine candidate that Bharat Biotech has. We will examine it from the scientific point of view and see the feasibility of taking it forward. It is a good example of a Make in India product,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, pediatrician and Director General, ICMR.
Dr. Ella is also seeking the help of Prime Minister Modi in fast tracking the development and delivery of the vaccine to those parts of the world where it is needed most.
The company says it can make one million doses of the vaccine in four months.