India's Biological E looking to make 600 million J&J vaccine shots a year

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian pharmaceutical company Biological E Ltd is looking to contract-manufacture roughly 600 million doses of Johnson and Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine annually, its managing director told Reuters on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A vial and syringe are seen in front of a displayed Johnson&Johnson logo in this illustration taken January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The country’s inoculation drive is currently using the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine and another developed at home by Bharat Biotech with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

Several other vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V, Cadila Healthcare’s ZyCov-D and a Novavax product are in the queue in the world’s biggest vaccine-making country.

“We are targeting 600 million doses for J&J,” Biological E’s Mahima Datla said, adding it was not clear when they could start production. “This will be in addition to our own product for which we are targeting approximately 1 billion doses.”

She declined to answer if the company could help J&J run a small local safety and immunogenicity study in India for the single-dose shot found to be 66% effective in preventing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 disease. India generally asks for so-called bridging studies for foreign vaccines.

A senior government official said on Tuesday J&J was interested in manufacturing its vaccine in India, which has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections after the United States.

Biological E’s own vaccine candidate developed with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and U.S.-based Dynavax Technologies Corp is undergoing clinical trials in India, with late-stage testing due to begin in April.

India, which manufactures around 60% of vaccines sold in the world, wants COVID-19 vaccine companies to make locally to sell on the domestic market as well as export.

The country has vaccinated more than 6.6 million frontline workers since starting its campaign on Jan. 16, with an aim to reach 300 million people by August. It has reported 10.86 million infections and more than 155,000 deaths.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, is making the AstraZeneca and Novavax shots for low- and middle-income countries.

Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Euan Rocha and Raju Gopalakrishnan