The IIT Alumni Council-founded Megalab has secured a Rs 300-crore seed funding and is developing a two-dose Ayurveda-based coronavirus vaccine that can stop the spread of the deadly virus and prevent infection within a few days of the first dose. The city-based Megalab, set up last April by the council to drive the fight against the pandemic with ideas and money, will also be importing available vaccines from the West to be distributed first in Mumbai and then elsewhere, the alumni council president Ravi Sharma told PTI on Thursday.
Sharma said the seed funding is part of the emergency funds lying with Social Fund, the financing arm of the council and forms part of the Rs 21,000 crore fund raising announced last April in the peak of the first wave of the pandemic. He said the proposed vaccine, which will be available for sale over the next six months, is an Ayurveda-based adjuvant vaccine that will have both injectable and nasal drops variants, and is expected to improve efficacy, reduce side effects, and work across all variants of the virus that has killed more than 2.6 lakh people in the country already. On the plan to imports vaccines, he said the move follows the US supporting patent waiver on Covid vaccines and should begin within a fortnight for distribution in Mumbai.
He further said the proposed vaccine is the first antigen-free, novel vaccine that is self-limiting and will be locally manufactured, the discussion for which are already on with drug companies and is based on indigenous technology. The end objective is to deliver a continuously upgradable vaccine that can outpace the virus thus helping to end the pandemic, Sharma said, adding the vaccine will initially be available to alumni community only. The imported vaccines will be priced at a US equivalent price point initially and will delivered via specially retrofitted buses to office or home location. Sharma said the new vaccine initiative is being led by Dr Arindam Bose, a Connecticut- based thought leader of the biotechnology industry, chairperson of the therapeutic group in the Covid-19 task force and a senior advisor to the India Vaccine Stack of the Megalab.
Bose previously headed the vaccine development division at the global drug giant Pfizer, while Dr Shantaram Kane, an IIT Bombay alumni and a PhD from MIT, is heading the injectable adjuvant and oral/nasal drops components of the India Vaccine Stack. The Megalab is in discussions with partners including Krsnaa Diagnostics, Kodoy, Koteleo, Platinae and Brew to divert available technology, laboratory and manpower resources to accelerate vaccine development and delivery, Sharma said. The IIT Alumni Council is the largest global body of alumni across all the 23 IITs and partnering institutes of the India Innovation Network. The council is now actively engaged in solving the corona crisis and has formed the Covid task force which has participation of over 20,000 alumni and includes Mumbai University and ICT Mumbai as institutional partners.