BENGALURU: In a scenario when global mapping studies show that India has a high burden of dengue infection, a vaccine against this disease is on its way.
Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy and Infosys Foundation have given $ 2 million to test a dengue vaccine, developed by a team of scientists at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), on monkeys.
Dr Navin Khanna, group leader of Mammalian Biology: Recombinant Gene Products at ICGEB, said, “In August, we filed for an international patent on our designer dengue vaccine candidate. Any vaccine has to be made in a stepwise manner. We have completed trials on mice. Now we will try the vaccine on monkeys. We would like initial funds of six million USD for a period of 2-4 years. After that, we may have to work with some vaccine company to take it forward to humans as large investments would be needed at that stage...”
Current official figures underestimate the heavy burden of dengue infections, say experts such as Dr Anita Shet, a professor at St John’s Medical College Hospital.
She said to Express, “A recent study estimated an annual average of almost 5.8 million clinically diagnosed dengue cases in the country between 2006 and 2012. This was almost 300 times the officially reported numbers for the same period.”
Dr Khanna, who has received awards for his dengue confirmatory kits and for developing the vaccine, told Express, “Dengue is caused by four viruses. So basically we will test four vaccines in parallel. These trials will be outside India, at Global Vaccines in Durham, N Carolina and the Emory Vaccine Centre at Atlanta where I am an Adjunct Professor. Initially, we will test it on 60 monkeys, then depending on the results we will test on 50 animals, then 24 and so on. We will test the safety efficacy on the monkeys and safety on rats or rabbits. If all goes right, we will be ready for human trials in India in the next five years.”
Department of Biotechnology (DBT) Secretary Prof K VijayRaghavan explained the department’s contribution. “DBT has put in huge money on vaccine research. We welcome the Infosys Foundation’s contribution to the project.”
Chief of Biocon Kiran Mazumdar Shaw has expressed interest in the vaccine, sources said. Khanna says, “Biocon is a wonderful company and I would love to work with them. However, this will be decided by the ICGEB Board of directors.”