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Covid-19: The frantic search for a cure continues

Six months into the pandemic, the pharmaceutical fraternity, including drugmakers and research institutes, are working at record speed to develop a vaccine or cure for the Covid-19 virus. Though vaccine makers are jumping the usual loops of trial development, regulatory agencies are stepping in to ensure that the companies are following guidelines. In India, too, after initial hiccups vaccine makers are going ahead with their trials. Divya Rajagopal reports on this week’s developments on vaccines and drugs for Covid-19:Bharat Biotech-ICMR vaccine to start human trialAfter the controversy over “15th August launch” of India’s indigenous vaccine, reality has sunk in, and the ICMR has clarified that its letter mentioning a target date was meant to spur investigators and cut red tape. Bharat Biotech is expected to start phase 1 human trials on July 13.Bharat Serums and equine antiseraMumbai-based Bharat Serums is about to start work on equine antisera as a treatment candidate for Covid-19. The equine sera tech has been used to cure diseases such as rabies and tetanus and as anti-snake venom.J&J signs a deal with EmergentMaryland, US-based Emergent solutions said it will provide contract development and manufacturing services beginning in 2021 to produce J&J’s SARS-Cov2 vaccine candidate Ad26. COV2-S. The manufacturing deal for the first two years is valued at $480 million. For the remaining three years beginning in 2023, Emergent will provide a flexible capacity deployment model to support annual dose requirements.NIH and DBT meetingRepresentatives from National Institute of Health and Department of Biotechnology met this week to vet the presentations from a few Indian vaccine developers with US tie-ups. Companies such as Genova presented their pre-clinical work on vaccine development at the meet.Novovax gets $1.6 billion from the US governmentThe US-based vaccine maker got $1.6 billion from the government to complete the late-stage development of its vaccine. The company plans to develop 100 million doses of NVX-CoV2373 as early as late 2020.