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Bharat Biotech in talks to take vaccine candidate global

BENGALURU (Reuters) - India’s Bharat Biotech is in discussions with more than 10 countries that have shown an interest in a potential COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with a government agency, a company executive told Reuters on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labelled with "Vaccine" stickers stand near a medical syringe in front of displayed "Coronavirus COVID-19" words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The company, based in Hyderabad, this week received initial approval from Indian authorities to conduct late-stage trials for its vaccine candidate, COVAXIN.

The potential vaccine was found to be safe without any major adverse events in the first two stages of the trials involving about 1,000 people, Executive Director Sai Prasad said in a phone interview, adding that more than 90% of them developed antibodies against the novel coronavirus.

The focus now was on last-stage trials of the vaccine, developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, as well as seeking foreign partners, he said.

“We are in active discussions with more than 10 countries that have shown an interest in COVAXIN,” he said.

“We are talking to some of the countries about partnerships to conduct clinical trials and introduce the vaccine, and in some countries we are in talks to manufacture the vaccine locally.”

He declined to name the countries but said they were located in South America, Asia and central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

For third-stage trials in India, Bharat Biotech plans to enrol about 25,000 to 26,000 participants in around 12-14 states, he added.

India’s Zydus Cadila is currently conducting mid-stage trials of its own vaccine hopeful, while Serum Institute is making potential vaccines from AstraZeneca, Novavax and Codagenix Inc, as well as developing its own.

India has the world’s second-highest number of reported coronavirus cases at 7.8 million, more than a 100,000 of whom have died.

($1 = 73.7434 rupees)

Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Alex Richardson