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March 12, 2024

Serum Institute’s Expansion Beyond Covid: New Vaccines Target Malaria and Dengue

Amidst the shifting tides of global health concerns, Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, sets its sights on combating diseases beyond Covid-19. With a strategic pivot in manufacturing, the institute is gearing up to launch vaccines against prevalent threats like malaria and dengue, utilizing facilities initially dedicated to Covid immunizations.

CEO Adar Poonawalla disclosed in an interview that the redirection of resources from Covid production is expected to bolster overall vaccine output by an impressive two and a half billion doses. As the demand for Covid vaccines wanes, Serum Institute plans to leverage its strengthened manufacturing capabilities to address pressing health challenges posed by diseases such as malaria and dengue.

Serum Institute, renowned for producing AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Novavax’s protein-based Covid vaccines, invested a substantial $2 billion during the peak of the pandemic to augment production capacity. Currently, the institute churns out approximately 1.5 billion vaccine doses annually, with the potential to escalate production to a staggering 4 billion doses.

Poonawalla emphasized the significance of this expansion not only in meeting present needs but also in fortifying preparedness for potential future pandemics. He asserted that with the enhanced capacity, India could feasibly vaccinate its entire population within a mere three to four months in the event of another outbreak.

In addition to addressing domestic requirements, Serum Institute is engaging in discussions with various countries and governments to extend support during future health crises. While specifics remain undisclosed, the institute is poised to play a crucial role in global pandemic response efforts.

The institute’s focus extends beyond Covid to combatting endemic diseases that continue to claim lives, notably malaria. Serum has allocated resources to manufacture a malaria vaccine, with an initial capacity of 100 million doses and the potential for further scaling based on demand. The vaccine, poised for launch in the near future, aims to combat the ancient mosquito-borne disease that remains a significant public health challenge, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Furthermore, Serum Institute is at the forefront of developing a single-dose vaccine for dengue, another mosquito-borne illness with severe health implications. Leveraging research from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the institute is conducting early- to mid-stage trials in India, anticipating completion of late-stage trials within the next three years.

While Serum’s efforts are commendable, they are not alone in the pursuit of combating dengue. Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical has already developed a dengue vaccine available in select countries, including those grappling with outbreaks like Argentina and Brazil. Additionally, Indian Immunologicals and other companies are also actively engaged in developing vaccines against dengue.

Looking ahead, Serum Institute remains committed to its mission of enhancing global health through vaccine innovation and accessibility. With a diversified portfolio targeting a spectrum of infectious diseases, the institute aims to fortify pandemic preparedness while addressing longstanding health challenges worldwide. Through strategic partnerships and relentless dedication, Serum Institute continues to lead the charge in shaping a healthier, more resilient future for humanity.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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