Hilleman Labs to make India research & manufacturing hub

Written by BV Mahalakshmi | Hyderabad | Updated: Jun 18 2014, 06:15am hrs
Betting big on vaccine research for developing countries, Hilleman Laboratories, a 50:50 joint venture between Merck & Co and UK-based Wellcome Trust, is set to make India its research and manufacturing hub.

While Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp (MSD) is a global healthcare leader offering a diversified portfolio of prescription medicines, vaccines and animal and consumer health products, Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation.

Speaking to FE, Davinder Gill, CEO of Hilleman Labs, said, We are focussed on providing affordable and basic vaccines to patients in low income countries. India is now the hub for vaccine research and manufacturing for us. We are collaborating with the global public health community on the development of optimised vaccines with target product profiles relevant to low income countries.''

We aspire to become a Centre of Excellence for effective and affordable development, delivery and distribution of vaccines to fight the diseases prevalent in the underdeveloped regions of the world. Our translational research focuses on creating safe, low-cost vaccines that are highly effective and can be easily incorporated into child immunisation programmes,'' Gill said.

The company has begun work on the development of a thermostable oral thin-film or granule-based rotavirus vaccine to allow for greater temperature consistency and less reliance on exact storage timing and refrigeration. In the next two to three years, we will launch two vaccines for the Indian market, he said.

For research, we are in talks with a few companies for partnerships. Besides, we are also looking at shared risk and cost revenue models to step up investments into R&D activities, he explained.

As part of its focussed research, it will also look into enteric diseases, expand portfolio and develop a pipeline of products. Enteric diseases are infections caused by viruses and bacteria that enter the body through the mouth or intestinal system, primarily as a result of eating, drinking and digesting contaminated foods or liquids. Cholera, typhoid fever, salmonella and Escherichia coli infections are common enteric diseases.

Meanwhile, Hilleman Labs announced a strategic collaboration with Gotovax AB, a University of Gothenburg spin-off biopharmaceutical company, to develop a high impact oral cholera vaccine.

With this collaboration, the company aims to deliver the vaccine at a significantly affordable price than the ones currently available in the market. With a longer shelf life; the vaccine candidate will be most suited for geographies with the highest cholera burden, like Africa and South Asia, the company said.