Hilleman to Invest in R&D for Low-Cost Vaccines
While the incidence of meningitis or meningococcal disease in India is low, the available vaccine for the disease is ‘narrow’ and extremely expensive, says Davinder Gill, CEO, Hilleman Laboratories, a ‘non-profit joint venture’ between US pharma major Merck and UK-based Wellcome Trust.
An IIT- Kharagpur alumnus, Gill has worked with MNCs such as Wyeth and Pfizer, and now steers Hilleman’s vaccine R&D lab, in Delhi. He spoke to BusinessLine on his company’s about ₹300-crore investments in R&D for affordable vaccines.
Why did you choose to work on a vaccine for meningitis?
We are trying to address the gap in meningitis treatment. A vaccine is there, but it is relatively narrow, as it is only directed towards meningococcal sero group A. The disease is caused by sero groups C, Y, W, X, too. So, the vaccine that we have developed is broad. For this, we have used a strength that India naturally has in the areas of synthetic organic chemistry. The project is still in the research phase. We are in the process of completing some pre-clinical studies.
Are you looking for partnerships in India for this?
Yes, we would like to seek partners. These can be a specialty pharma company, a vaccine developing company or a government enterprise interested in developing this vaccine. Collaborations will be necessary to take this to the next level (manufacture).
We have talked to some organisations in India and abroad, but have not finalised anything yet.
Once that is done, we will go in for clinical development.
If we find the right partner in a five-seven year timeframe, this product should be tested clinically, and produced in countries were meningococcal disease is a problem.
Usually, a large capital investment is required for creating any vaccine.
But, Hilleman has taken an approach that will allow the vaccine to be created at a lesser cost. Moreover, this is 10 times more effective than the existing vaccine.
- Health Care