UPDATED: Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech race to get swine flu vaccines back on the market

Swine flu is making a comeback in India, and with a vengeance. After destroying their existing stocks due to poor demand and short shelf life, two local companies will be racing to get their swine flu vaccines back on the market.

Since January, 11,000 people have tested positive for swine flu in India, and 750 of them have died, Al Jazeera reports. Bharat Biotech is working on producing its vaccine, HNVAC, in bulk, and Serum Institute started production of its H1N1 vaccine, Nasovac, in January, according to The Hindu. Nasovac will be commercially available in India by the end of March. The company does not plan to export the vaccine.

Nasovac, an egg-based, live attenuated vaccine, is trivalent, also protecting against H3N2 and Type B influenza. The 65,000-dose batch will be completed in mid-March, according to The Hindu, and will hit the market as soon as the Central Drugs Laboratory in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, releases it after testing. A single dose will cost 800 rupees ($12.87).

According to The Indian Express, 180,000 vials of Nasovac were available in December, but there was no demand. The company recently destroyed this stock, which has a shelf life of one year. It is produced using an H1N1 virus strain that is recommended by the WHO.

Serum Institute of India Executive Director Suresh Jadhav

"(Nasovac) can be used during the 2015 winter provided the strain that circulates then remains the same," Dr. Suresh Jadhav, Serum's executive director, told The Hindu.

Serum is also busy working its way into the international vaccine arena, where Big Pharma dominates. The company is working on low-cost vaccines, including those for measles, pertussis and HPV. It is also reportedly in early merger talks with fellow Indian company Cipla, with which it already has an agreement to distribute its vaccines in Europe.

Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech is working on a new-and-improved swine flu vaccine to prevent future outbreaks. 

"We have collected samples of virus strains from swine flu patients and Hyderabad and work on sequencing is underway to understand virus genotypes," company chairman Krishna Ella told Live Mint.

- read about Serum from The Hindu
get more about Bharat Biotech
- read the Indian Express story
- see Al Jazeera's coverage
- and still more about Bharat Biotech