Tata Medical & Diagnostics, a new unit of Tata Sons, has begun talks with US-based Moderna to form a partnership and launch its vaccine against COVID-19 in India. The company may partner with the Centre’s Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct clinical trials of Moderna’s jab, The Economic Times reported.
Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine has received funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI is a part of the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility, which aims to ensure fair distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus among countries.
Moderna did not respond to Reuters request for a comment outside business hours, while Tata Medical & Diagnostics did not immediately respond. Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius or below, Moderna’s can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, making it more suited for poorer countries such as India where cold chains are limited.
Data released in November from Moderna’s late-stage study showed it was 94.1% effective with no serious safety concerns. The shot was approved for use in the United States in December and in Europe earlier this month. India mandates that any vaccine maker must conduct an additional local study if it has to be considered for what the country calls the world’s biggest vaccination programme.
It gave emergency-use approval to a vaccine by Bharat Biotech and state-run Indian Council of Medical Research and another licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca that is being produced by the Serum Institute. India has the world’s second highest COVID-19 caseload after the United States, but daily cases have been declining since hitting a peak in September.
India’s drugs controller has said the overall efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, locally branded COVISHIELD, was 70.42% based on trials done overseas, but the approval for Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN has faced criticism due to the lack of efficacy data. Several Indian companies have tied up with international vaccine-making firms for testing and supplying COVID-19 vaccines in the country. For instance, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India developed the Covishield in collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. Meanwhile, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in India is developing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and Biological E is conducting trials for Johnson & Johnson’s candidate.