Tatas may forge partnership with Moderna to launch Covid-19 vaccine in India.  |  Photo Credit: BCCL
New Delhi: Tata Medical and Diagnostics, the healthcare unit of the Tata Group, is reportedly in early talks with Moderna, an American biotechnology company, for a tie-up to roll out anti-coronavirus vaccine in India. It is worth noting that in November last year the Tata Group had launched a Covid-19 test kit that gives results in under an hour and as precise as the RT-PCR method. On January 16, India kicked off the world’s largest immunisation campaign to bring the pandemic under control.
Tata is likely to join hands with the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)—India’s premier research organisation—to conduct clinical trials of Moderna’s vaccine candidate in India, officials with knowledge of the matter told ET.
It is worth mentioning here that foreign vaccine makers must carry out a bridging trial on the Indian population in the country before rolling out their products. More importantly, if the vaccines are approved abroad, foreign companies must conduct phase-3 trials with volunteers in India.
In January 2020, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)—a part of the COVAX facility of the World Health Organisation—provided funds to Moderna to develop its mRNA vaccine against the coronavirus. Plus, the COVAX facility wants to equitably distribute 200 crore Covid-19 vaccines in low-and middle-income countries including India by the end of 2021.
The financial daily quoted unnamed officials as saying that initial discussions between Tata Medical & Diagnostics and Moderna have begun, and any concrete plans will be finalised once the Centre gives the green signal to private sector participation.
In June 2020, the Mumbai-based coffee-to-cars conglomerate established Tata Medical & Diagnostics amid the coronavirus crisis and is ready to enter the country’s Covid-19-led health requirements in the devices and formulations space.
“The requirement for vaccines in India will be huge and the Tata Group has a strong brand equity in the country to gain people’s trust and confidence by following approved guidelines for vaccines,” a top group told the publication.
At present, India is using two vaccines—the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Covishield, made in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and another developed domestically by Bharat Biotech.
Pharma majors in India are awaiting clarity from the health ministry on the kind of role they can play in the vaccination programme. Several companies in the country with global alliance for testing and supplying Covid-19 vaccines include Serum Institute for the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca; Dr Reddy’s for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and Biological E is conducting a trial for Johnson & Johnson’s candidate.
Currently, Moderna has no separate partnership with Indian drugmakers yet and its first supply commitments are to governments that pre-ordered vaccines.