Hyderabad: Encouraged by the prequalification from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV), city-based vaccine maker Bharat Biotech is planning a four-fold increase in the production capacity of the vaccine which it sells under the brand name Typbar TCV.

Launched in 2013, the conjugate vaccine, the world’s first one for typhoid, is currently on sale in India and some neighbouring countries, including Pakistan. With the WHO’s prequalification now, it will be supplied to over 100 countries through UNICEF, other world bodies and to GAVI-supported countries. A conjugate vaccine can be administered to children aged below two years, which is not possible with the regular vaccines. 

“At present, our plant in Telangana can produce 50 mn doses of Typbar TCV a year. We plan to expand the annual capacity to 200 mn doses in next few years. However, the expansion will obviously be linked to the demand coming from global markets,” Dr Krishna Ella, Chairman & Managing Director, Bharat Biotech, told The Hans India on Wednesday.

The company which has its plant at Genome Valley on the city’s outskirts is expected to invest more than Rs 50 crore on the expansion. “As we already have a manufacturing base for the vaccine, the expansion will not require much investment,” he maintained. The company invested Rs 150 crore for developing the vaccine and establishing the first phase manufacturing facility.

In India, Typbar TCV is priced at Rs 1,500 apiece as it’s marketed through private medical practitioners. However, Bharat Biotech is offering the same at Rs 95 ($1.5) a dose for GAVI-supported countries. GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) is a public-private global health partnership aimed at increasing access to immunisation in poor countries. Recently, GAVI Board approved $85 mn funding window for typhoid conjugate vaccine– a move which will benefit Bharat Biotech as it’s the only company in the world to have a TCV. However, India is not a party to this alliance.

“Recognising the importance of sustained vaccine procurement for low income and low-middle income countries, we also announced a further price reduction to around $1 (Rs 64) or below apiece if the procurement crosses 100 million doses,” Dr Ella said.

On the high price for the vaccine in India, he said the cost would come down in the country too if volumes went up.  On an average, Bharat Biotech has been selling about one million doses a year for the past three years. It can’t sell the vaccine at low prices at such low volumes as transport costs through cold storage vehicles, are too high, a company official said.

As per the International Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates, there were nearly 12 mn cases of typhoid fever in 2016, resulting in around 1.3 lakh deaths globally. Typhoid fever is caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. 

Tags: Bharat Bio