Hyderabad, Aug (IANS) Telangana's Industries Minister K.T. Rama Rao on Tuesday exuded confidence that the first vaccine for novel coronavirus will be rolled out from Hyderabad, which has emerged as the vaccine capital of the world.
More than 150 vaccines for Covid-19 are under development at various stages across the world. "Within India, we have 6 companies in the race and 4 of them are headquartered in Hyderabad," he said while speaking on 'The vaccine race - Balancing science and urgency' organised by the state government at Genome Valley.
The participants in the discussion were heads of Bharat Biotech, Biological E and Indian Immunologicals. Rama Rao noted that the three companies were leading the vaccine race.
The minister, who also visited Bharat Biotech facility at Genome Valley, said the state was proud that Bharat Biotech was a frontrunner in developing vaccine for Covid-19. He was confident that the much-needed breakthrough would come from Hyderabad and Bharat Biotech.
"Hyderabad's life science ecosystem has truly fortified its position and shown its strength to the world not only from our pharmaceutical sector but also biotechnology and vaccine manufacturing," he said.
KTR, as the minister is popularly known, said Hyderabad continued to remain one of leaders in vaccine manufacturing, accounting for one third of vaccines used globally. He said the city was also home to pharma companies producing drugs like Remdesivir and Favipiravir.
The minister assured the state government's support to the ongoing efforts by the companies to develop the vaccine. He visited Genome Valley to know about the challenges faced by the companies in the vaccine development and the support required from the government.
He said the current unprecedented times were also exciting times from the perspective that every adversity has inherent opportunity that lies within.
"In the current pandemic situation, the life sciences sector has emerged as the key sector and the vaccine industry is the biggest ray of hope. And the world is once again looking up to us to provide a solution. It is said time and again that India's vaccine sector will play a critical role in developing and producing vaccines at scale for distribution across the world. Hyderabad's importance in the global vaccine landscape is only growing," he said.
KTR said he was happy to note that Biological E has joined the pursuit to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and have made significant progress in this direction. He assured the companies that the state government is committed to play an enabling role in global vaccination efforts against Covid-19.
The minister, who moderated the discussion, said while there will be a vaccine, the world may have to wait for 6-12 months.
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, who addressed the session through video conferencing, stressed the need for a plan to ensure fair and equitable distribution of vaccines as and when they were available.
Asked by the minister about the rationale behind WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus' statement that there may never be a Covid-19 vaccine, she said he was warning people not to believe that the problem will be solved in 6 or 12 months as the world had still not understood the virus and developing a successful vaccine for lifelong protection was not easy. "He is preparing people for long term. He is saying vaccine is not a silver bullet," she said.
Dr. Krishna M. Ella, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Biotech International Ltd, urged the minister to announce procurement strategies for Covid-19 vaccines, when they become available.
Mahima Datla, Managing Director, Biological E Ltd, said that their company stands by the philosophy that no person gets left behind, irrespective of their country or financial status and that the vaccines they manufacture be made accessible in an equitable fashion.
Dr. Anand Kumar, Managing Director, Indian Immunologicals Ltd, said that all the organisations working for the vaccine development of Covid-19 in India should come together and collaborate to ensure the timely development of a vaccine in India.