Thursday, July 8, 2010

Serum Develops Intra-nasal Swine Flu Vaccine

The influenza A H1N1 vaccine developed by one of India’s top biotech companies, Serum Institute of India, will hit the market in mid-July

Even as the number of swine flu victims creeps up slowly in India as the summer monsoon rains pick up momentum, an intra-nasal swine flu vaccine will be available to Indian health authorities to combat the disease.

Developed using the conventional egg-based technology, the Serum Institute of India will be releasing 500,000 doses of Nasovac, which can be administered through a nasal spray, in July. The company hopes to make available one million more doses of 5 milliliter each in August and scale up production based on demand. Serum Institute had set up a $15 million manufacturing complex in Pune only to handle the development and production of the swine flu vaccine.

Serum Institute, based in Pune, Maharashtra, was among the three Indian vaccine makers—along with Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad and Panacea Biotec, New Delhi—assisted by the World Health Organization in mid-2009 with the swine flu virus strains to develop the vaccine. The vaccine made from Serum Institute will also be available for global requirements if there is any outbreak this year.

Nasovac is the third swine flu vaccine to hit the Indian markets. Early in 2010, India had imported the vaccine made by Sanofi Pasteur. The French giant’s vaccine was field tested and fast tracked by the Indian regulator to protect the most vulnerable sections of society in February. In early June, Indian pharma major, Zydus Cadila, introduced the country’s first home made swine flu vaccine, VaxiFlu-S.

With the availability of three vaccines, there is likely to be intense competition in the market. While the Sanofi’s product is priced around Rs 300($6.3) per dose, Serum has indicated a price of Rs 190 ($4.2) per dose which is marginally lower than Zydus Cadila’s product.

Three other Indian companies are also engaged in clinical trials of their swine flu vaccines.

With the advent of the seasonal monsoon rains and dip in temperature, the influenza A H1N1 infection has shown an upward trend in the last two months. Over 150,000 people have been infected with the virus, mainly in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Maharashtra. However, health authorities indicate that the virus strain has not been very virulent and this time around there is no panic as witnessed during the initial outbreak in 2009. Testing centers and vaccine availability have improved substantially to reach out to the people quickly.


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