Home HEALTH SII, the world’s largest vaccine maker, sees demand doubling in five years

SII, the world’s largest vaccine maker, sees demand doubling in five years

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Serum Institute of India Pvt. is expanding its production capacity as it expects sales of life-saving vaccines, including those for malaria and cervical cancer, to double in the next five years.The world’s largest vaccine maker currently has the capacity to produce 3 billion doses of all types of vaccines each year, but only sells about 1.5 billion doses annually. The Pune-based firm is forecasting that will change.

“As countries increase their health-care budgets, you’re going to see a huge uptake of vaccines that can prevent a lot of diseases,” Serum’s Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla said in an interview with Bloomberg TV for an upcoming episode of Latitude with Haslinda Amin. “Vaccines have been proven to be the most efficient tool for prevention.”

He is particularly bullish about the outlook for the company’s new vaccines for malaria and cervical cancer. It has the capacity to produce 100 million doses of each, he said.

Demand for the malaria vaccine is slowly picking up as countries in Africa plan and prepare for its arrival. Serum shipped the first batch of the vaccine, dubbed ‘R21/Matrix-M,’ to Africa in May. It’s the second malaria shot authorized for children in the world, according to a company statement.

It will take about two years for the demand to meet the supply, he said. Meanwhile, there’s a global shortage of vaccines against human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer. Only a few manufacturers can produce the HPV shots because it’s “very complicated and difficult to make,” the 43-year-old billionaire said. While Serum will supply millions of doses of the HPV vaccines, called Cervavac, at a discounted rate to the Indian government as part of the universal immunization program, Poonawalla is also looking to sell it overseas.

Dengue Strains
Serum is also working on shots to combat four strains of the dengue virus as well as the flu viruses that can trigger outbreaks in some geographies.

“It is something we need to be wary about because there are already 14 different flu strains,” Poonawalla said. “Although I don’t see a global pandemic likely in the near future, the pandemic flu can create a lot of destruction and hospitalizations in certain areas.”

Serum, in April, signed a licensing pact with the University of Oxford to produce and deliver “a chimeric protein-based vaccine” against Meningitis-B, an infection that affects the brain and spinal cord.

The maker of the AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine in India faced significant challenges at the height of the pandemic when countries were clamoring for more Covishield supplies — from a fire at its production facility to a local ban on exports and shortages of key raw materials from the US — but Poonawalla does not want to apportion blame for the outbreak.

“If we’re more transparent and open with exchanging information with one another, I think you can get ahead of the curve,” he said. “You can save a lot of lives.”

Created in 2017 after the Ebola virus outbreak, the Oslo-based group works to improve vaccine development and response to epidemic threats.

“With CEPI, we are building up stockpiles and we are working on a 100-day mission, where you can go from a vaccine candidate to production to shipping within 100 days,” he said.

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