Serum Institute sets out for dengue fast track

Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla

Asia's largest vaccinemaker just made a play that could affect the race for a vaccine protecting against dengue fever, a common affliction that has a big impact in the region.

The Serum Institute of India announced on Tuesday that it's seeking fast-track approval to launch a dengue treatment in India for which it purchased local rights from U.S. biotech Visterra earlier this month. If successful, the company could be the first globally to launch a drug for the mosquito-borne illness, Reuters reports--a development with potential implications in the ongoing dengue vaccine race between Sanofi, Takeda, and others.

Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla told the news service his company will seek approval in a year to a year and a half versus the three to four years typically required for vaccines. However, Sanofi ($SNY), which has spent 20 years and $1.5 billion developing its vaccine, plans to launch yet this year in the region: Its vaccines head, Olivier Charmeil, said the company will have filed for approval in 20 countries--representing approximately half of the world's population at risk of dengue--by the end of this year.

Serum's play comes amid the worst dengue outbreak in 5 years in India's capital, New Delhi, which has caused high death rates and showcased the area's inadequate measures against the disease.

The news capped a busy day for the vaccinemaker, which also announced on Tuesday that it will halt a planned stake sale amid fears of a global slowdown, India's Business Standard reported. The company, fully owned by the Poonawalla family, previously planned to divest a 10% stake of a desired $12 billion valuation.

For its dengue vaccine launch, Sanofi has said it's "flipping the model," placing its focus on dengue-stricken nations and favoring wide uptake. Despite that company's progress, analysts have predicted Takeda could be battling for market share with DENVax by 2020. Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) are further off with their candidates.

- here's the Reuters story
- read more from Business Standard
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