As the race for a COVID-19 vaccine intensifies, Bangladesh's leading pharma company Beximco has announced it will be investing in Adar Poonawalla's Serum India Limited (SIL) for development of the vaccine. The size of the investment has not been disclosed but will depend on SIL's priority supply commitment to Beximco Pharma Ltd (BPL).
The deal is designed to ensure that Bangladesh is among the first countries to receive an agreed quantity of this vaccine from SII on a priority basis, a BPL statement said on Friday. The investment will be treated as an advance for the vaccine, it added.
"We at Beximco have been able to guarantee that once the vaccine is globally registered, Bangladesh will be one of the first countries to use it," BPL principal Shayan F Rahman told NDTV, adding, "It is a sign of the depth of relationship not just between Serum India and Beximco, but also between the two countries."
The deal between the two companies announced on August 28; comes about 10 days after India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka. "For us, Bangladesh is always a priority country," Mr Shringla said on August 19 before returning to India. "India produces 60% of the world's vaccines. When the vaccine is produced, it goes without saying that our closest neighbours, friends, partners and other countries will be part of that."
On Thursday, August 27, Bangladesh Health Minister Zahid Maleque announced the country has approved a late-stage trial of a candidate vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd (SVA.O) in the hope of being a priority recipient.
The BPL vaccine offers an option to that. In a statement on Friday, August 28, said it would "facilitate to secure the needs of the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) by offering the opportunity to reserve desired quantities for priority supply at prices to be agreed between the GOB (government) and SII. The Company will also secure additional quantities of the vaccine to be distributed in the private pay market in Bangladesh."
"This landmark agreement reflects the deep-rooted desire for collaboration between the two countries and as representatives of the two nations, between us, we can go a long way towards helping to mitigate the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," Adar C Poonawalla, Owner and CEO of SII and Shayan F Rahman, Principal, BPL, jointly said in a statement released by Beximco on Friday.
SIL is currently conducting Phase 3 trials for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (AZD1222) -- an adenovirus vector-based vaccine, currently also undergoing large scale phase III trials in Brazil, US and the UK.
"The UK trials are well underway and has shown very encouraging results and is expected ro receive approval by the end of 2020. SIL has already partnered with Oxford/AstraZeneca along with Gates Foundation and Gavi to produce more than a billion doses of the vaccine for global supply", the BPL statement said.