The race to make a Covid-19 vaccine in India
Companies in India are using diverse technologies to develop a coronavirus vaccine, but even as they race against time, the road to an efficacious solution is neither straight nor short
The timeline is historically short: Create in 18 to 24 months what you usually get five years or more to do. In mid-May, as the number of people testing positive for coronavirus increased to 4.48 million, including 82,000-odd from India, and counting worldwide, scientists have been breaking their backs to find a cure. A powerful treatment that experts say should be at least 95 percent effective against the outbreak and one that could be administered to people across ages, pre-existing health conditions, and geographies. Creating an effective coronavirus vaccine is a tall order, and an urgent one.
According to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a foundation that tracks the global Covid-19 R&D landscape, there were at least 115 ongoing vaccine initiatives worldwide as of April 2020, out of which five are in early-stage clinical trials. In India, at least seven companies and research institutions are working on developing a vaccine candidate using different technological platforms and approaches. The CEPI notes that the “global vaccine R&D effort in response to the Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in terms of scale and speed”.
A Reuters report published on April 27 notes that historically, just 6 percent of all vaccine candidates end up making it to the market, often after a “years-long process that does not draw big investments until testing shows a product is likely to work”. But in the case of Covid-19, which has infected crores of people and killed lakhs across the world, while crippling the global economy, traditional processes are being sidelined, and governments, non-profits and pharmaceutical companies are investing billions into platforms even with low odds of success.