Krishna Ella, founder chairman of Bharat Biotech Ltd, faces the biggest test of his career this week, as Covaxin, the company’s vaccine candidate, enters human trials.
Though the timeline suggested by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for launching the vaccine is considered unprecedented and ambitious in the field of vaccines, the company’s track record in indigenously developing vaccines has given hope to the medical fraternity on its ability to make a breakthrough despite the short time-frame.
In 2015, Bharat Biotech made headlines after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the first India-made Rotavirus vaccine developed by the Hyderabad-based company. The vaccine, branded Rotavac, priced at about $1 a dose, is among the cheapest available globally and has been inducted into the World Health Organization’s (WHO) immunization programme since.
“I think Indians are very good under pressure,” Ella had joked at the launch of a variant of Rotavac 5D last December. The remark resonates remarkably, as Bharat Biotech and Ella race against time to develop India’s first vaccine against covid-19. Ella carries a stellar reputation in the vaccine industry, with his firm having developed the world’s first typhoid conjugate vaccine, as well as the world’s cheapest rotavirus vaccine, both pre-approved by WHO.
Bharat Biotech started operations in 1996 after Ella returned from the US to set up a company dedicated to creating innovative vaccines and bio-therapeutics. Over the years, it has successfully develo