“Vac­cine de­liv­ery and af­ford­abil­ity are ma­jor bot­tle­necks”

Dr Davin­der Gill, CEO, Hille­man Lab­o­ra­to­ries

BioSpectrum (India) - - BIO CONTENT - Dr Davin­der Gill, CEO, Hille­man Lab­o­ra­to­ries

Hille­man Lab­o­ra­to­ries has re­cently en­tered into a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don, Engi­neer­ing and Phys­i­cal Sciences Re­search Coun­cil (UK) and other premier in­ter­na­tional bod­ies to work to­wards low-cost vac­cine man­u­fac­tur­ing. This col­lab­o­ra­tion in­volves work­ing with the De­vel­op­ing Coun­tries Vac­cine Man­u­fac­tur­ing Net­work on man­u­fac­tur­ing projects in In­dia, Viet­nam, Bangladesh, Uganda and China. Dr Man­beena Chawla from BioSpec­trum spoke to Dr Davin­der Gill, CEO, Hille­man Lab­o­ra­to­ries to find out more about such de­vel­op­ments. Edited ex­cerpts;

Be­sides in­ter­na­tional as­so­ci­a­tions, what de­vel­op­ments are tak­ing place in In­dia?

Very re­cently, Hille­man has signed a Me­moran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MoU) with Na­tional In­sti­tute of Cholera and En­teric Dis­eases (NICED), an In­dian Coun­cil of Med­i­cal Re­search (ICMR) or­ga­ni­za­tion for fur­ther de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the Shigella vac­cines and other en­teric vac­cines for di­ar­rheal dis­eases. NICED comes with a va­ri­ety of strengths in re­search and de­vel­op­ing strate­gies for treat­ment, preven­tion and con­trol of en­teric in­fec­tions. This will also be a strate­gic shift for Hille­man, since till now, our fo­cus has been to op­ti­mise ex­ist­ing vac­cines and ad­dress the gaps in low re­source set­tings. We will now en­deav­our to de­velop an en­tirely new line of treat­ment and we look for­ward to jointly abat­ing this fa­tal dis­ease which threat­ens the na­tion’s health. Be­sides this project, we are ex­plor­ing some more op­tions in In­dia, which are yet to be de­vel­oped. We are also work­ing on a project for a vac­cine on toxic E Coli. It is a new area since there is no ap­proved prod­uct for that till now. In gen­eral, we have made some very good progress in the last couple of years in terms of busi­ness. Few of our vac­cines have reached the late stage clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. Both of our Ro­tavirus and Cholera vac­cines are in phase 3 clin­i­cal tri­als. We are also look­ing into new prod­uct de­vel­op­ment to bring to our pipe­line.

What are the main chal­lenges be­fore the in­dus­try?

Vac­cine R&D is cap­i­tal in­ten­sive and a lot of time goes by in the re­search. It also de­pends on how much the gov­ern­ment is will­ing to spend and on which all vac­cines. But of course the in­dus­try will not be aware of the gov­ern­ment sce­nario be­fore it starts work­ing on the re­search of a par­tic­u­lar vac­cine. So one has to be ready to take much big­ger risks while conducting the vac­cine R&D as com­pared to other pharma prod­ucts. But more than that it is the vac­cine de­liv­ery pipe­line which is more chal­leng­ing, es­pe­cially in In­dia. New vac­cines get in­tro­duced into our im­mu­niza­tion pro­gramme but the de­liv­ery pipe­line is get­ting quite sat­u­rated. Since we have a het­ero­ge­neous pop­u­la­tion, we need to as­sure that what­ever vac­cines we have in our pipe­line gets ef­fec­tively de­liv­ered. Un­less the de­liv­ery of vac­cines is ef­fec­tive enough, there is no point adding new prod­ucts to the ex­ist­ing pipe­line. Many coun­tries are fac­ing this prob­lem. We need to im­prove the to­tal health­care sys­tem. Vac­cine de­liv­ery and af­ford­abil­ity are the ma­jor bot­tle­necks.

How is Hille­man ad­dress­ing those?

At Hille­man, we pay at­ten­tion if there are com­pli­ca­tions with re­gard to ef­fec­tive de­liv­ery. An­other chal­lenge we are look­ing into is that In­stead of in­jectable vac­cines, we are try­ing to ex­plore pos­si­bil­i­ties of de­vel­op­ing more of oral vac­cines. For ex­am­ple, many groups are work­ing on Shigella vac­cine but we are plan­ning to work to­wards de­vel­op­ing an oral form of this vac­cine. To con­clude, one more chal­lenge that needs to be ad­dressed is the vac­cine dosage. For our cholera vac­cine, we are ask­ing the ques­tion whether we can make a sin­gle dose vac­cine. By re­duc­ing the vac­cine dosages, a lot can be eased out.

Do you think In­dia is los­ing ground to China and South Korea with re­spect to vac­cine ex­port?

The scale at which vac­cines are ex­ported from In­dia is quite un­match­able. Coun­tries like Korea can­not com­pete with that. Also, the cost of do­ing busi­ness in Korea and China are in­creas­ing now as com­pared to In­dia. Be­sides, the re­cent scan­dal en­gulf­ing the vac­cine in­dus­try in China has never been heard of in In­dia. But of course, In­dia will surely re­main com­pet­i­tive in the long run.

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