"There is a tremendous pressure on us to develop the vaccine. But for us, safety and quality are paramount. We don't want to kill more people with the wrong vaccine," Ella said during an interaction with members of the Chennai International Centre on 'Covid-19 Endgame Scenarios' on Saturday.
"We want to do clinical research of the highest standards. We have been monitored by international agencies and communities. It's a matter of prestige for the country and for us. We won't be shortsighted on research and will produce the best quality vaccine," said Ella, while refusing to comment on the target date for the launch.
How fast clinical trials can be done depends on the time frame. For example, for rotavirus it takes six months to complete one phase. But for Covaxin (Bharat Biotech's Covid-19 vaccine) it took only 30 days for phase-I and the company has now entered phase-II.
Ella said the Indian vaccine industry isn't inferior to the MNCs of Europe and the US and is far ahead of the Chinese in technology and clinical research.
"We are not less than GSK or Sanofi (the global majors)," he says, adding that many people are skeptic about the capabilities of Indian companies. They were proved wrong when vaccines were developed for rotavirus, polio and other diseases with tremendous experience in manufacturing and clinical trials from India.
The challenge is to evolve a strategy for attacking the pandemic, Ella explained.
"The pandemic has got so much attention not because of the deaths it is causing, but because it has destroyed the economy. That is why every politician and bureaucrat is talking about it. More people die in road accidents than Covid," Ella said, adding that people should not get paranoid, as it will lead to other problems.
Over the past 17 years, he has been telling the Government that it needs to work on developing solutions for the neglected diseases of the developing world, including China, India and Africa. These neglected diseases are turning out to be pandemics of the future. For instance, chickengunya and yellow fever, which were once described as "not important diseases", are being recognised as important ones globally.
Indian vaccine makers have proved they can develop quality and affordable vaccines, Ella said.
A few years back, his company launched a rotavirus vaccine for $1, when global major GSK supplied it for $85, with the same parameters and quality.
"This is what an Indian company can do. For this (Covid) vaccine also we will make it very affordable and accessible for everyone," Ella said, claiming that he has not taken a single rupee from the government, and that all the investment behind the project will be from the firm's own money.
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