Covid vaccine boost: Serum Institute founder adds $3.6 billion to his wealth in just under 4 months

By: |
August 25, 2020 5:25 AM

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine candidate deal has progressed to Phase-III trials and their Covidshield vaccine is getting government permission to manufacture the immunisation.

Around 400 million doses of this Covid vaccine is expected be manufactured by early 2021.Around 400 million doses of this Covid vaccine is expected be manufactured by early 2021.

There has been a steep rise in the net worth of Cyrus Poonawalla, founder of the world’s largest vaccine-maker, Serum Institute of India. Work on half a dozen Covid-19 vaccine candidates and rapid scaling up of Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity has helped add $3.6 billion to Poonawalla’s net worth in under four months.

According to the Forbes India’s Richest list, Poonawalla’s net worth in April 2020 was at $8.2 billion and by August 24, 2020, Poonawalla’s net worth jumped to $11.8 billion.

Serum currently manufactures 1.5 billion doses of vaccines a year and is scaling up capacity to add Covid-19 vaccines to its portfolio to cross the two-billion doses mark soon. The pipeline of Covid-19 vaccines has boosted the company’s net worth as well as the founder’s. The company is all set to move all the Covid-19 vaccine candidates portfolio into a new special purpose vehicle (SPV) that has just been registered and awaiting regulatory clearances.

Through the new SPV, Serum is planning to raise around $1 billion for the Covid-19 vaccine development business. There are reports of fundraising talks with private equity funds such as Blackstone and KKR and a few social venture funds.

According to Aadar Poonawalla, CEO and executive director, Serum has till date tied up with five vaccine candidates against Covid-19. Two of five vaccines candidates are Serum’s own candidates and the rest are with partners, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Novavax and Codagenix. A sixth tie-up is in the works. Poonawalla hopes to announce the availability of their own vaccine by the end of 2021.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine candidate deal has progressed to Phase-III trials and their Covidshield vaccine is getting government permission to manufacture the immunisation. The Indian government would be procuring and distributing these vaccines in India. Around 400 million doses of this Covid vaccine is expected be manufactured by early 2021.

The second vaccine candidate, Novavax, is just two months behind the Oxford vaccine, Poonawalla said. Serum will be manufacturing and distributing the Novavax candidate in India and also in the low- and middle-income countries by 2021. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing $150 million to support vaccine manufacturing of up to100 million doses of Novavax at Serum’s Pune facility.

“We have also partnered with US-based Codagenix, which is in its pre-clinical trials phase and will move to the human trial phase by the end of 2020. We have a global manufacturing and supply association with them,” Poonawalla said.

Serum is simultaneously conducting Phase-III trials of the recombinant BCG vaccine shots to improve ability to fight and reduce the severity of Covid-19 in India. Based on these trials and after confirming the efficacy and viability of the vaccine, Serum plans to start mass production of the vaccine.

The company’s strategy of working on multiple vaccine candidates is expected to give them higher chances of having a successful Covid-19 vaccine in 2021 even if some of them don’t make it. It is this pipeline that will be attracting investors.

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