Indian biotech joins forces with Griffith University in hunt for COVID-19 vaccine

12 May 2020

On April 23, vaccines-manufacturing company Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL) has announced a tie up with researchers from Griffith University to develop a vaccine candidate for COVID-19.

As part of the collaboration, the researchers will attempt to develop a live attenuated SARS–CoV-2 vaccine, or COVID-19 vaccine, using codon de-optimisation technology.

Live attenuation is a vaccine development technique that involves weakening the potency of a virus or bacteria in the laboratory, while ensuring that in humans it stimulates the same immune response. The de-optimisation technology would allow scientists to make changes to the virus’s genome to decrease its ability to replicate in humans.

If successful, the vaccine is expected to provide long-lasting immunity against SARS-CoV-2 following a single immunization, with cross-protection against other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS-CoV-1.

‘As the vaccine will be live-attenuated, it is expected to be highly effective by providing a strong cellular and antibody immune responses against the virus,’ says Professor Suresh Mahalingam from Menzies Health Institute Queensland and leader of the Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics (EVIT) group.

‘It will mimic the infection of the real virus but cannot cause disease. And what’s really fantastic about this vaccine is that it can induce all arms of the immune response.’

Professor Mahalingam says the other benefit of a live-attenuated vaccine is a proven record for economical large-scale manufacturing and a well-known regulatory approval pathway. He expects that if approved, this vaccine may reach the market sometime in late-2021.

IIL is already working with Griffith University on the development of a Zika virus vaccine which is currently at pre-clinical toxicology testing stage.

‘IIL is committed to developing high-quality vaccines that are affordable,’ says IIL’s Deputy Managing Director, Prasanna Deshpande. ‘We are confident that this new cross-continental collaboration will yield the desired results.’

Based in Hyderabad, IIL is a major producer of vaccines in India. It supplies pediatric vaccines to India’s large Universal Immunisation Programme and it exports human and animal vaccines to 50 countries.