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How India’s new Rotavirus Vaccine brings down price to $1 from $20

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Rotavirus vaccine Rotavac, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech today in Hyderabad, making it the first indigenously developed vaccine for diarrhoea that will help reduce infant deaths due to Rotavirus diarrhoea significantly in the country and other parts of the world.

Krishna Ella, MD of Bharat Biotech, said it was a dream come through to make the first vaccine of Indian molecule.

“We have also maintained our pledge to offer Rotavac for $1 to governments in low income countries. Our vaccine is affordable, safe and effective, besides being cross-protective against a variety of Rotavirus strains,” he said.

The Bharat Biotech has invested over Rs.400 crore for the vaccine and another Rs.100 crore for infrastructure and manufacturing facilities set up in Genome Valley in Hyderabad. It has a capacity of producing 300 million doses per year, the company said.

More than 300 scientists worked for 15 years to successfully complete the project, in partenrship wit other biotechnology centres in the country and abroad, said Bharat Biotech MD.

Currently, Rotavirus vaccines in India is sold at Rs.1,100 per dose by foreign companies while Bharat Biotech proposed to sell Rotavac for Rs.63 per dose to the government of India and to other low income countries.

Bharat Biotech said it has filed 4 global patents around the technology of Rotavac in more than 20 countries, which can help to fight rotavirus diarrhoea that kills 450,000 children worldwide, including 110,000 deaths in India.

The tummy bug rotavirus first attacks cells through carbohydrate receptors present on a child’s intestinal cells and starts to infect other cells.

Recently, a paper published in the international journal Nature Communications reveals how the virus attacks cells through carbohydrate receptors present on a child’s intestinal cells.

Professor Mark von Itzstein, a co-senior author of the paper and Director of the Institute for Glycomics, says their study greatly assists the understanding of how this virus starts to infect cells and provides new direction in potential drug discovery.

“Our findings greatly advance our understanding of the sugar receptors used by human rotaviruses and provide clues as to how we might target this virus to stop it infecting cells,”he says.

Associate Professor Barbara Coulson, of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne and a co-senior author said the discovery has implications for childhood susceptibility to rotavirus disease.

“What we have found is that not all human rotaviruses recognise the same sugar receptor and this important information will be invaluable in the discovery of anti-rotaviral drugs,” she says.

Dr Thomas Haselhorst, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the Institute for Glycomics and a co-senior author on the paper, says the findings also offer potential for new vaccine development strategies.

“We are very excited by our findings, as we now have a much better understanding of the carbohydrates important for the virus to latch on to for successful infection.”






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