Takeda, Hilleman eye low-cost vaccine space

Takeda wants to join the likes of India's Hilleman Labs and Serum Institute and grab a piece of the low-cost vaccine pie. The Japanese pharma closed a €3 million ($3.3 million) equity investment in Belgium-based Univercells to use the latter's technology with vaccines in Takeda's pipeline to produce affordable vaccines for developing countries.

Univercells reduces the cost of manufacturing by intensifying each step and integrating them into a continuous process, Univercells' Chief Technology Officer, Jose Castillo, told Biopharma-Reporter.

Takeda Vaccines head Rajeev Venkayya

"Takeda is committed to making its vaccines available to people in need, wherever they may live," Takeda's vaccines president Rajeev Venkayya said in a statement. "Reducing production costs while maintaining the highest levels of quality is an important part of our access strategy, and manufacturing science plays a critical role."

Hilleman Laboratories CEO Davinder Gill

As for Merck's ($MRK) Indian JV, Hilleman Labs is on the prowl for potential partners to fund a 300 crore rupee ($46 million) project to develop affordable vaccines. The company plans to spread the investment over 4 to 5 years and develop low-cost vaccines for rotavirus, cholera and meningitis, Hilleman CEO Davinder Gill said, as quoted by Economic Times.

The company is seeking pharmaceutical and vaccine specialty companies and government agencies to collaborate with on research and to fund the project. "We had received foundational grants from MSD Pharmaceuticals and Wellcome Trust, but now we want to be financially independent," Gill said in the ET report.

"Normally, there is a large capital investment required for creating vaccines. We, however, have taken an approach that will allow the vaccines to be created at a lesser cost thus providing a boost to manufacturers … using synthetic platform technology," Gill said.

The affordable vaccine behemoth, Serum Institute of India, has been aiming to undercut Big Pharma's vaccines in the developing world, marketing a variety of low-cost jabs and working on low-cost HPV, pertussis and measles vaccines.

- read more from Biopharma-Reporter
- here's the Univercells release (PDF)
- and here's the Economic Times story