Thursday, 11 February 2016

India: First Vaccine for Zika Virus developed by Bharat Biotech

Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad based company, amidst an Ebola like déjà vu moment for the world, has recently announced that they have developed two vaccines (ZIKAVAC) to fight against Zika Virus – one is a recombinant vaccine and another an inactivated vaccine that has reached the stage of pre-clinical testing in animals. The company has filed patent applications for both. The company, until now was only famous for having mastered the making of the world's cheapest hepatitis-B vaccine. This news comes as a surprise for many because as recently as the beginning of 2016, American Scientists predicted that it might take up as much as a decade to finally release the drug in the market. 
Even though the virus is yet to spread in parts of India, it is imperative for the hoi polio to be aware of its spread, chiefly for two reasons. The first and the more universal reason is because the virus has reached pandemic levels in various parts of Central and South Americas. As recently as last month the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines concerning pregnant women for future travels in the affected countries. The second reason, being much closer to home, is that the virus belonging to the family Flaviviridae, is related to other pathogenic vector borne flaviviruses like dengue, a disease that is all too common among the lower-middle class and related income groups in India.
On the last week of January, the World Health Organization, said that the virus was likely to spread throughout the majority of the Americas by the end of the year. Though there is not enough evidence to predict an Ebola like outbreak, it has not escaped such speculation by the popular media. It even found its way in the recent G.O.P. debate. Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, and one of the republican frontrunners, when asked if he would quarantine individuals returning from Brazil and other Latin American countries with symptoms of Zika virus, replied in the assertive.

One of the men behind the success story, Dr. Krishna Ella, now the chairman-cum-managing director of Bharat Biotech Ltd, says on July 2015, his team had a Eureka moment on Zika and were able to make two vaccine candidates. Hurriedly patents were filed. It eluded media attention during that time, primarily because no one anticipated a future global crisis caused by the Zika virus. Ella says the actual struggles begin now, as the Indian technocracy and the drugs regulatory system takes its own sweet time for approvals. Ella's first hurdle now is to convince an expert committee set up by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that the product and patent he has applied for is scientifically worth pursuing since vaccine trials are very expensive.          

Meanwhile, our Research team also put together a list of trademark application filed by various entities including Bharat Biotech for the trademark ZIKA and similar trademarks in class 5:

At a time when the entire world is searching for an answer to the conundrum, the World Health Organization has acknowledged Bharat Biotech’s efforts and said in a recent press statement, "we have just been informed about the Zika vaccine candidate that Bharat Biotech has. We will examine it from the scientific point of view and see the feasibility of taking it forward."


  1. Oduyebo T, Petersen EE, Rasmussen SA, et al. Update: Interim Guidelines for Health Care Providers Caring for Pregnant Women and Women of Reproductive Age with Possible Zika Virus Exposure — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65(Early Release):1–6.
  2. European center for disease prevention and control , 'Zika virus infection' (European Center For Disease Prevention and Control , 3 February 2016) althtopics/zika_virus_infection/Pages/index.aspx  accessed 8 February 2016
  3. Tom Miles, 'Zika virus set to spread across Americas, spurring vaccine hunt' (Reuters, 25 January 2016)  accessed 8 February 2016
  4. Dina Maron, 'Why We Shouldn't Quarantine Travelers Because of Zika' (Scientific American , 7 February 2016)  accessed 8 February
  5. James Cook, 'Zika virus: US scientists say vaccine '10 years away'' (BBC, 27 January 2016)  accessed 8 February 2016
  6. Pallava Bagla, 'How Bharat Biotech Made Its Breakthrough In Developing A Vaccine For Zika Virus' (Huffington Post, 7 February 2016) zika-virus_0_n_9179776.html  accessed 8 February 2016 

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