Senior director, Serum Institute of India
The author has been with Serum institute of India since its inception.
He has 38 years of experience in the biotechnology industry’s various
aspects, like production, QC, projects and R&D. He has also chaired
the Innovation Panel of Confederation of Indian Industry, Pune Chapter.
The rapid acceptance and unexpected commercial success of Prevnar and
Gardasil changed the vaccine market scenario around the world.
Following this, pandemic flu threats created awareness among people
about primary prevention of infectious diseases. Also, the government
authorities in the developing countries have become more proactive in
satisfying the unmet needs of vaccines, which incidentally have the
highest demand in the world. However, because of low affordability in
this population and high prices, people were deprived of the benefits
of high innovative vaccines.
Challenges before companies
- A major challenge before biotechnology companies, in terms of
marketing, has been manufacturing quality vaccines at affordable
prices. Highest standards required for manufacturing and long gestation
period from table to market fueled with very high capital costs and
clinical trial costs make this task very challenging.
- Availability of technology is a major issue. Conducting basic
research and developing technology is a barrier for vaccine
developments as they affect the cost of vaccines.
- People talk about a worldwide vaccine market of around $20
billion. These figures are based on ruling prices in the US and the EU.
With developing countries having a successful track record of selling
new innovative vaccines at 1/8th the price, the market becomes much
smaller in terms of value.
- One outcome in the last decade has been the increased number of
manufacturers, which has put a lot of pressure on price. This is good
news for the common man who has more choices and affordable drugs, but
the same has become a challenge for the biotech companies.
- In the developing world, particularly in India, most companies
try to imitate than innovate. We need more of Dendreon-like success
stories where the company is predicted to achieve revenue of $3 billion
from the sale of one product.
- Biotech companies need to educate and convince people about
weighing the dangers of contracting diseases versus risks, associated
with immunization. The swine flu outbreak was a classic example where
people did not understand the fatal nature of the disease and preferred
to volunteer to contract the disease than get vaccinated.
- Despite India becoming the hub of vaccine manufacturing, the
government is still silent about the use of newer vaccines. Bureaucrats
are still debating the need of the vaccines than trying to study the
world scenario and learning from the experiences of other countries.