Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd has announced that it will invest with Serum Institute of India (SII) for the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Beximco Pharmaceuticals – the fastest-growing manufacturer of generic pharmaceutical products and active pharmaceutical ingredients in Bangladesh – will be the exclusive distributor of SII for this vaccine in Bangladesh.
The investment amount will be treated as an advance, and once the vaccine receives regulatory approvals, Serum Institute – the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume – will include Bangladesh among the countries that will be the first to receive an agreed quantity of this vaccine from SII on a priority basis, says a press release.
Beximco's investment amount and Serum Institute's priority supply commitment will be determined in consideration of Serum Institute's production capacity and earlier commitments to other countries.
Officials of Beximco Pharmaceuticals told The Business Standard that a preliminary agreement has been signed with Serum Institute and that there has been no talk on investment yet.
A decision regarding the amount of investment will be made once Serum Institute produces the vaccine, they said.
Beximco Pharmaceuticals will also help meet the needs of the Bangladesh government by offering it an opportunity for the vaccine to be reserved in desired quantities for priority supply at prices to be agreed between the government and SII.
The company will also secure additional quantities of the vaccine for distribution in the private pay market in Bangladesh.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (AZD1222) is an adenovirus vector-based vaccine, currently undergoing large-scale phase III trials in Brazil, the US, the UK and India.
The UK trials are well underway and have shown very encouraging results and are expected to receive approval by the end of 2020. SII has already partnered with Oxford/AstraZeneca along with Gates Foundation and Gavi to produce more than a billion doses of the vaccine for global supply.
In a joint statement, Adar C Poonawalla, owner and CEO of SII, and Shayan F Rahman, principal of Beximco Pharmaceuticals, said, "We are excited to bring together two of the leading pharmaceuticals companies in India and Bangladesh with the scale and capabilities to bring a vastly promising treatment to the people who need it the most."
"This landmark agreement reflects the deep-rooted desire for collaboration between the two countries and as representatives of the two nations, between us we can go a long way towards helping to mitigate the health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic," they added.
Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told The Business Standard that the government has to buy the vaccine when it comes in the market.
"If Beximco is ready to supply it in advance, it will be an advantage for Bangladesh. The government will be able to bargain with Beximco here. Bangladesh may be able to buy the vaccine at the rate set by the Indian government," he argued.
The government has given the go-ahead for human trials of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech.
"Bangladesh has decided to approve the vaccine trial, the cost of which will be borne by Sinovac," Health Minister Zahid Maleque said on Thursday.
The government has proposed that the United States utilize the services of Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies in the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines and drugs.
It has decided to allocate Tk765 crore for the purchase of about 22.5 lakh Covid-19 vaccines.
Earlier, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan said the minimum price of a vaccine could be $40 (equivalent to Tk3,400).