Sharing her own experience of fighting Covid-19, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson of Biocon Limited, said that over time, people were learning to grapple with the crisis. There are no short cuts to developing a vaccine and the first step is to have a comprehensive data, she said in conversation with author and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai at TNIE Expressions, a series of live web casts with people who matter.
Let’s talk about the vaccine because yesterday, a clinical trial was halted because of unforeseen circumstances. When do you see a vaccine coming?
I can understand accelerated approval for a cancer drug because it is a huge problem. But remember, this is about treating an illness. A vaccine actually immunises healthy people, hoping that you protect them against the virus. In order to do so, we have to have a lot of safety data, efficacy data. We need to have data on durability of response, which means how long it is going to protect you for. At the moment, the speed development that everyone is talking about is short-circuiting everything.
Normally, it is a sequential process. So, you do a phase 1, a phase 2 and a large phase 3. A phase is where you realise which is the best and safest dose to give. In phase 2, you start studying the efficacy, and in phase 3, you do it in a very large population to ascertain it’s safe. Today what is happening is they have started doing things parallel… There are no shortcuts for vaccine developments and it is for the safety of people worldwide that we do not rush through it.
This is the same vaccine as is being developed by the Serum institute?
It’s the same... In my view, the Serum Institute should have made a statement that ‘in view of the AstraZeneca vaccine programme being put on hold, we are also putting our programme on hold unless we understand what the problem is’.
What about Biocon? Are you involved in any efforts to develop the vaccine?
We are only supporting vaccine development. Our company Syngene is supporting many vaccine developers in providing them with support. We can do categorisation of spike protein.
How has your company managed economic crisis?
We have actually hired people instead of laying off. What we have had is disruption in our work… We are testing our staff vigorously.
You have just come out from battling Covid-19.
This is a disease that people have not understood at early stages…Now, we have a much deeper understanding. …I felt that since I am an influencer, I should say that I tested positive... I wanted to share my experiences to allay the fears of people testing positive.