Setting a landmark in India’s fight against Covid-19, Zydus Cadila has kicked-off human trials of its plasmid DNA vaccine candidate (ZyCoV-D) and now looks to simultaneously start producing anti-viral drug Remdesivir. Speaking to BusinessLine, the company’s Chairman Pankaj Patel cautions against unwarranted anxiety around vaccine development across the globe in the larger interest of the people.
The country is waiting for the vaccine with bated breath. What is the timeline for Cadila’s vaccine candidate, ZyCov-D’s phase-1/2 trials and how different is it from other such trials in the world?
Three months is the phase-1/2 trial time. Our trials are more elaborate. We are testing the vaccine on 1,000 persons, which I believe no other company is doing at phase 1/2 level.
We do it because it gives more meaningful data. Typically, a vaccine should be able to generate immune system in at least 60 per cent of the persons.
Second, it has to give immunity which would last for at least four to six months.
So, unless you test the vaccine and take four to six months time, you won’t know if the antibody remains in the body or not. We have to pass through this process, otherwise we can’t have a product in the market.
There are countries that claim the vaccine to be ready or in the final stage of trials. How credible and responsible are such claims?
We (people) have to wait. People have to learn to have little patience. It is not correct to create unwarranted anxiety among people by claiming early availability of vaccines. A threat to life (due to Covid-19) is the most anxious moment for anyone. We should know that a vaccine takes three months in phase 1/2 trials and another three months for phase 3 trials.
That seems to be more realistic. We need to see the data from the countries that claim to have made a vaccine. Without that, we can’t comment.
Once the vaccine is ready, what will be your strategy of distribution considering India has huge market?
We are currently working on it. And we have to work with the government in the distribution because it prioritises where the vaccine needs to be sent first.
The people who are at high-risk should be vaccinated first. But we are going to start production of the vaccine in advance before the results of phase-3 trials. The task before us to reach out to 1.3-billion people is huge and our capacity will be limited. So, we will also need other partners to manufacture for us once we are successful.
What’s your thoughts on vaccine pricing as well as keeping it accessible to developing nations including India?
For Remdesivir, we have got licence to manufacture in India. So, it’ll be priced much-lower than the global prices. Same can be said for the vaccine. It is a trying time for the world.
We don’t exist if we don’t have drug for people. At this time, we have to ensure that we help the people, more than just look at some quick bucks.
What is the latest on Remdesivir production under license from Gilead Sciences?
We are launching Remdesivir next month in the market. The pricing will be known in due course.