Serum Institute of India makes 60-70 million AstraZeneca doses per month, and is aiming for 100 million by July. With its 1.3 billion people, India has become the latest hotspot of the pandemic, even as richer countries take steps towards normality with accelerating vaccination programmes.
SII is now set to invest in facilities in Britain and could even manufacture inoculations in the UK in future, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday. Johnson’s Downing Street office said the GBP 240 million (USD 334 million) project would include a sales office, “clinical trials, research and development and possibly manufacturing of vaccines”.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) is the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, and has been at the forefront of producing the lower-cost AstraZeneca coronavirus shot.
SII has also begun phase one trials in the UK of a one-dose nasal vaccine for coronavirus. Downing Street said the vaccine maker’s plans were part of a wider package of trade and investment deals with India worth GBP 1 billion that it expects to create over 6,500 jobs.
With its massive population and growing economy, India has been high on London’s list of trade deal targets since Britain left the European Union last year. But a surge in COVID-19 cases has left the health system there at breaking point, forcing Johnson to shelve a planned visit this month.
Before the current wave, India was exporting tens of millions of SII-made AstraZeneca shots via through the Covax scheme supplying poorer countries. Last month New Delhi froze exports — including to Covax — to prioritise jabs at home.
SII, based in Pune, southeast of Mumbai, is a state-of-the-art production facility headed by 40-year-old chief executive Adar Poonawalla, scion of a pharmaceutical dynasty worth an estimated GBP 11 billion.