Arch rivals Bharat Biotech & SII join hands in war on polio, ET HealthWorld


Hyderabad: Pharma rivals and leading vaccine makers Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India (SII) have set aside their differences to collaborate on global polio eradication, three years after a bitter public spat over quality of their COVID vaccines.

Under the new alliance, Bharat Biotech of Hyderabad will source the drug substance for its oral polio vaccine (OPV) – Biopolio – from Pune-based SII’s subsidiary Bilthoven Biologicals BV (BBio), based in the Netherlands.

This partnership aims to bolster the production and supply security of OPV in the fight against polio as the world aims to achieve global eradication of the disease. Bharat Biotech, a major global manufacturer of OPV, has the capacity to produce up to 500 million doses annually, sourcing the drug substances from suppliers.

An official announcement on Tuesday revealed that Bharat Biotech and BBio have signed an agreement to jointly obtain regulatory approvals and licences for commercial OPV manufacturing in India, catering to both domestic and international markets.

The collaboration marks a significant shift from the rift between the two companies, which escalated after SII CEO Adar Poonawalla questioned in Jan 2021 the efficacy of COVID vaccines other than Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca-Oxford’s Covishield. SII produces Covishield, while Bharat Biotech makes Covaxin.

Bharat Biotech founder Dr Krishna Ella had responded by questioning the quality of AstraZeneca-Oxford’s vaccine trials. Following intervention from PMO, both companies reconciled, pledging to collaborate on COVID vaccine development, manufacturing, and supply.

Reflecting on the new partnership, Dr Ella emphasised the importance of OPVs in global efforts to eradicate polio. “Oral polio vaccines have been an integral part of the govt’s universal immunisation programme for several decades, with Bharat Biotech being one of the largest suppliers to immunisation programmes across the world,” he said.

For his part, Poonawalla expressed his company’s commitment to eradicating polio worldwide through joint efforts with Bharat Biotech. The partnership is “a crucial step towards reducing the impact of this deadly disease on vulnerable populations”, he said.

  • Published On Apr 3, 2024 at 04:38 PM IST

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