India's Cadila saddled with more COVID-19 vaccine orders than it can fill

Cadila Healthcare recently got the OK to kick off a phase 3 study of its vaccine hopeful in India. (Liz Masoner from Pixabay)

Demand outpacing COVID-19 vaccine supplies has already been a problem for players with authorized products, including Pfizer and AstraZeneca. But an Indian drugmaker known for its generics is reporting similar issues over a shot still kicking around the clinic.

Cadila Healthcare, also known as Zydus Cadila, has more orders for its plasmid DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, ZyCoV-D, than it can make—and so far, it's still on the hunt for partners to hit a production target of 200 million doses, Indian outlet Moneycontrol reports.

"We have always believed that this (DNA) platform offers the most safe and efficacious way of handling such a large pandemic and we are very happy to see the strong response we are getting from different countries," Sharvil Patel, managing director of Cadila Healthcare, said, according to Moneycontrol.

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Thing is, that strong response has apparently outstripped Cadila's present capacity.

“In terms of our opportunity size, we have orders far more than what we can make,” he said. “I have to work on prioritization of supplies and manufacturing.”

To that end, the company is building out a production facility with planned capacity for 120 million doses, which should be ready for commercial operations in the first quarter of the 2022 fiscal year—sometime after April, Patel said. That coincides with Zydus’ predicted timeline for a late-stage data readout on ZyCoV-D, which was recently approved to start phase 3 trials in India.

According to Patel, the company has plowed about 1.5 billion to 2.5 billion Indian rupees (around $20.5 million to $34.3 million) into R&D and production for the shot.

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Should Zydus’ vaccine clear regulatory benchmarks in India, it’ll be up against the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, which the company is cranking out on license from AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin—both of which snared emergency green lights at the start of the year.

Those shots, plus Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine—which Indian compatriot Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories aims to launch in March, Moneycontrol said—are part of the country’s roughly $4.1 billion effort to immunize at least 500 million people within the 2022 fiscal year. The country has so far vaccinated 5.8 million people with the first doses of Serum Institute and Bharat’s shots, according to the news outlet.

That Cadila’s shot is just now making it into the final leg of the clinic should give the company some lead time to build out capacity. Cadila has said it’s on the prowl for potential manufacturing partners to add another 60 million to 70 million doses to the 120 million it hopes to squeeze from its own facility.

Bloomberg first reported the company was looking for some extra production muscle—once again to the tune of 70 million doses—back in October. Given the latest from Cadila’s Patel, it seems the company is still looking.