Variant-proof Covid-19 vaccines in the offing


Vaccine-makers are coming out with variant-specific Covid-19 vaccines, as off-shoots of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to drive an increase in cases around the world.

Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said on Tuesday that the Sputnik V vaccine had been specifically adapted against Delta and Omicron variants of Covid. The announcement comes on the heels of Pfizer-BioNTech seeking an emergency approval in the US for its bivalent vaccine against the two strains of Omicron.

On the Sputnik V development, RDIF and Gamaleya said: “Over the course of the pandemic the Gamaleya Center has been consistently studying the new emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2 and adapting Sputnik V to them accordingly. The new version of Sputnik V has been Delta- and Omicron-adapted as Omicron is currently the dominant variant around the globe. This new version is also addressing the L-452-R mutation in Omicron BA5 variant which was not present in the BA1 variant.”

The existing version of Sputnik V shows excellent results in preventing hospitalisation and death caused by Omicron, it added. The RDIF has invested in the development and production of both Sputnik V and Sputnik Light, but is presently facing US sanctions as a fall-out of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Several Indian drug companies, including Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Serum Institute, Wockhardt, Panacea Biotec and Morepen, to name a handful, had inked alliances to make or market the vaccine. But its uptake in the country has been below par, industry voices said.

Bivalent vaccine

Meawhile, Pfizer and BioNTech said on Monday that they have completed a submission to the US Food and Drug Administration requesting the Emergency Use Authorisation of a booster dose of an Omicron BA.4/BA.5-adapted bivalent Covid-19 vaccine for 12-year-olds and above.

A conditional marketing authorisation application has also been initiated with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the bivalent vaccine and is expected to be completed in the coming days, the companies said.

“Given the ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, it’s of great importance that vaccines can be rapidly adapted to the major circulating Omicron lineages,” Prof Ugur Sahin, CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech, said in a statement.

In India, Serum Institute (thorough its Novavax partner in the US) and Bharat Biotech are also reportedly in pursuit of variant-specific vaccines.

Published on

August 23, 2022

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