A view of the production facilities at the Serum Institute of India, Pune
A view of the production facilities at the Serum Institute of India, Pune|File photo (Serum Institute)
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Serum Institute, Pune gets DCGI nod for trials of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, August 3, 2020

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has given approval to the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) to conduct clinical trials of the Oxford University-Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine in India.

The Phase II+III clinicial trials of the vaccine, Covishield, would hasten the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, a press release from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said here today.

The institute, which is the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world, had sought permission from the Government for conducting the trials late last month. It has been chosen by Oxford and AstraZeneca for manufacturing the vaccine once it is ready.

The vaccine candidate is currently undergoing Phase II and III clinical trials in the UK, Phase III trials in Brazil, and Phase I and II clinical trials in South Africa.

Biopharmaceuticals major AstraZeneca had earlier said, in a press release on July 20, that interim results from the ongoing Phase I/II COV001 trial, led by Oxford University, showed AZD1222 was tolerated and generated robust immune responses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in all evaluated participants.

COV001 is a blinded, multi-centre, randomised controlled Phase I/II trial with 1,077 healthy adult participants, aged 18-55 years. It assessed a single dose of AZD1222 against a comparator meningococcal conjugate vaccine, MenACWY. Ten participants also received two doses of AZD1222 one month apart.

The results published in The Lancet confirmed a single dose of AZD1222 resulted in a four-fold increase in antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein in 95% of participants one month after injection. In all participants, a T-cell response was induced, peaking by day 14, and maintained two months after injection.

Neutralising activity against SARS-CoV-2 (as assessed by the MNA80 assay) was seen in 91% of participants one month after vaccination and in 100% of participants who received a second dose. The levels of neutralising antibodies seen in participants receiving either one or two doses were in a similar range to those seen in convalescent COVID-19 patients. Strong correlations were observed across neutralisation assays.

The early safety responses confirmed that transient local and systemic reactions were common in the AZD1222 group and were comparable to previous trials and other adenoviral vector vaccines. They included temporary injection site pain and tenderness, mild-to-moderate headache, fatigue, chills, feverishness, malaise and muscle ache. No serious adverse events were reported with AZD1222, and reactions were lessened with the use of prophylactic paracetamol, a pain killer, and occurred less frequently after a second dose.

Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial at Oxford University and co-author of the trial, said: “The interim Phase I/II data for our coronavirus vaccine shows that the vaccine did not lead to any unexpected reactions and had a similar safety profile to previous vaccines of this type. The immune responses observed following vaccination are in line with what we expect will be associated with protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, although we must continue with our rigorous clinical trial programme to confirm this. We saw the strongest immune response in participants who received two doses of the vaccine, indicating that this might be a good strategy for vaccination.”

Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca, said: “We are encouraged by the Phase I/II interim data showing AZD1222 was capable of generating a rapid antibody and T-cell response against SARS-CoV-2. While there is more work to be done, today’s data increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale for broad and equitable access around the world.”

Late-stage Phase II/III trials are currently underway in the UK, Brazil and South Africa and are due to start in the US. Trials will determine how well the vaccine will protect from the COVID-19 disease and measure safety and immune responses in different age ranges and at various doses, the release said.

"In parallel, AstraZeneca continues to fulfil its commitment for broad and equitable access to the vaccine, should late-stage clinical trials prove successful. So far, commitments to supply more than two billion doses of the vaccine have been agreed with the UK, US, Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and Serum Institute of India," the release added.

AZD1222 was co-invented by the University of Oxford and its spin-out company, Vaccitech. It uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector based on a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees and contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus if it later infects the body.

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