With the last three months of the year fast approaching, players in the global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine are gearing up for what will likely be a busy final quarter. Now, one of the world's largest vaccine makers is looking to raise a massive sum to boost its production of up to five candidates.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) is pursuing $1 billion in fundraising by September to support development of five COVID-19 vaccine candidates, including frontrunners from AstraZeneca and Novavax, the Economic Times of India reported.
Private-equity investors Blackstone and KKR are reportedly in talks to help fund SII plan's through a special purpose vehicle to boost manufacturing of the vaccines and support pivotal clinical trials, the Times said.
A spokesperson for SII could not be reached for comment by press time.
A representative for KKR declined to comment, and a Blackstone spokeswoman said in an email the firm did not speculate on "market rumours."
SII, the world's largest producer of vaccines to developing nations, has inked two deals to produce and distribute leading vaccine candidates, including AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford's adenovirus-based shot, and Novavax's spike protein hopeful. The drugmaker is also developing two of its own candidates, as well as a fifth through an agreement with New York-based Codagenix, according to the Times.
In late May, SII and Novavax inked a licensing deal for the Maryland-based biotech's COVID-19 candidate as part of its goal to produce 1 billion vaccine doses each year.
In tandem with that deal, Novavax shelled out $167 million for Czech manufacturer Praha Vaccines and a 150,000-square-foot, 150-employee facility that the partners are using to rapidly scale production of Novavax's shot.
Then, in early June, AstraZeneca tapped SII in a licensing deal to produce 1 billion doses of its vaccine to low- and middle-income countries, with the goal of 400 million produced by the end of 2020. AstraZeneca has also signed a $750 million deal with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to manufacture and distribute 300 million doses of Oxford's vaccine before 2021.
The SII isn't the only Indian drugmaker taking its place in the global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Last week, Hyderabad, India-based Biological E announced it was working with Johnson & Johnson on the pharma giant's own recombinant DNA-based prospect. The Indian firm acquired a 39,000-square-foot facility from Akorn India that could add more than 165 million doses to its annual capacity to aid in that effort.
Akorn's vaccine manufacturing site in Himachal Pradesh "may be able" to handle commercial production of J&J's vaccine, Biological E said in a release. The site currently has capacity for 135 million doses per year with the ability to immediately expand by another 30 million, Biological E said.