Indian vaccine makers say can quickly adapt to tackle variants
By Krishna N. Das and Neha Arora NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian pharmaceutical companies Bharat Biotech and Biological E
By Krishna N. Das and Neha Arora
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian pharmaceutical companies Bharat Biotech and Biological E. Ltd said on Monday they could quickly rework their COVID-19 vaccine products to fight new variants once their genetic sequence is known.
In recent months, India has confirmed the presence of the variants first identified in Brazil, Britain and South Africa, which are believed to explain an upsurge in cases in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Kerala.
In all, India has reported more than 11 million coronavirus infections, the highest number in the world after the United States, and about 156,000 deaths.
"As we are seeing a lot of resurgence of cases, we are picking up samples from hotspots and clusters and we are trying to sequence them," Nivedita Gupta, deputy director-general of the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told the BioAsia conference.
ICMR and Bharat Biotech have collaborated to develop India's first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine, which, along with another licensed from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, is being used in the country's immunisation campaign that has covered more than 10 million people since mid-January.
India is the world's biggest maker of vaccines, and its companies have promised to produce billions of doses of COVID-19 shots.
Bharat Biotech Chairman Krishna Ella said his company would mainly need data from the ICMR or the World Health Organization on the genetic sequence of any variant to quickly make an effective vaccine.
Speaking at a conference organised by the state of Telangana, home to India's vaccine hub Hyderabad, Ella said a product to tackle the South African variant could be made in 15 days and would not require any change to the manufacturing process.
Biological E. Managing Director Mahima Datla said there was no need to be "overly concerned" about the mutations.
"Eventually we don't know which variant of the virus, which mutants will take over, but we think that it's prudent to work on technologies that address the new variants as well," she said.
Biological E., which is developing a vaccine with Houston's Baylor College of Medicine and Dynavax Technologies, recently completed Phase 1/2 clinical trial in India, Datla said.
Its product uses the recombinant-protein technology in which a harmless agent is used to stimulate an immune response in cells.
"Once you know the variant, when it's sequenced, it is fairly quick to deploy into a vaccine," said Datla, whose company will also contract-manufacture Johnson & Johnson's shot.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Neha Arora; editing by Barbara Lewis)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.