This report is based on International Virtual Conference “Supply Chain Challenges of COVID -19 Vaccines: Indian Imperative” that was organized by a consortium of Global Bio Supply Chain Association of Life Sciences, involving the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations (FABA), Bio Supply Management Alliance (BSMA) USA and Europe, BIRAC, ABLE, NITIE Mumbai, Indian Oil Corporation and the Institute of Chemical Technology.
The fore-running vaccine candidates across the world are reaching the core human trials stages. The global demand is to produce vaccines for 7.8 billion people. The massive challenge is the global distribution and logistics of the vaccine.The vaccines require express transportation, large cold storage facilities at transit points, professionals with handling expertise, need of palletization and unitisation of goods.
The Supply Chain challenges of delivering vaccines to the 1.35 billion people of India and more in other parts of the world is unprecedented. The “Call-to-Action” is a unique opportunity for the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries of India to restore the health of the citizens while gaining its rightful share in the world vaccine market.30% disruption in the vaccine supply chain was a norm pre-pandemic.
COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at a breakneck pace, but a broken supply chain could derail that momentum, stunting the economic recovery and likely increasing the number of lives lost. The challenge ahead is about controlling this disruption to practically zero level as vaccine quantities are goingto be scarce. There are other significant challenges related to vaccine production –Pricing, Distribution, Cold chain infrastructure, Technology integration, Capacity building and so on.
Experts noted that nothing on the scale of vaccination planned for COVID-19 has been attempted in India before. Building a partnership network of both public-private and public-public partnerships, identifying and ensuring access to required physical logistics infrastructure, establishing IT-enabled supply chain transparency and creating organizational structures are essential to overcome the challenges of COVID -19 pandemic.
As we come closer to the COVID -19 vaccine roll out, the topic of Supply Chain is gathering a lot of attention and one has to understand the magnitude and unprecedented challenge in India’s preparedness for a policy and robust implementation framework for COVID-19 vaccine immunization.
While welcoming the delegates of the conference, Prof. Reddanna, the Executive President of FABA informed the delegates that the response to the call from FABA and BSMA was overwhelming from various academic institutions, Government organizations, particularly the Department of Biotechnology, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDCSO), vaccine manufacturers, organisations involved in cold storage and supply chain. It is heartening to note that the representatives of all these organisations have joined to address these challenges and protect the citizens from CoronaVirus infection.
The keynote address on “The Vaccine Manufacturing and Distribution Policies and Plans”, moderated by Prof. Damodar Acharya, Former Director, IIT Kharagpur, was given by Dr. Renu Swarup. Dr. Renu Swarup began the keynote by referencing how we have never seen such a spotlight in the area of science and vaccine development. Generally vaccine development which would take about 10-15 years is now being developed in less than 10-15 months. Dr. Swarup explained that India has the unique strength of globally recognized as a vaccine manufacturing hub. She continued to mention how it is not only our responsibility to have the vaccine ready for India but also for the world at large. She stressed on the fact that India is working towards a global cause. She emphasized that it is very important to understand where we are currently in the vaccine development stage in India. Additionally Dr Swarup reflected about the vaccine candidates that are there at various stages- about 60 different sites for clinical trials and 11 phase III sites. She mentioned about the investment that DBT has put in – not just financial but also in investment in terms of capacity and partnership with WHO and bringing in right people. The government has launched an India pact program which is a partnership for accelerating clinical trials where India is working with neighboring countries to build their capacity for training and also facilitating for clinical trials.
Dr K. Srinath Reddy, the Chairman of Public health Foundation of India,raised various questions and opined that given the expertise present at the conference the answers will flow. He raised valid questions like ‘Which vaccine to choose, the population to be vaccinated, who first and who next because the supply chain is not in full flow?’. ‘How to prioritize and who will be distributing?’, ‘Who will control, the centre or state?’, ‘Are the vaccinators adequate in number and skills?’
Of the various questions he shared, gave general context of immediate and emerging necessity for the following:
Essentiality model: People who are maintaining in essential services, Security and Transport
Demographic model: Age, crowd density, co-morbidities, where it is not spreading faster.
Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/rupjGUH2lh8
Panel 1: Manufacturing and Sourcing of Vaccines to keep 1.35 Billion People Safe and Healthy
Moderator:Mr. LakshminarayanaNeti, Chief Operating Officer, Biological E
Speakers: Dr. Vishwa Mohan Katoch, NASI-ICMR Chair on Public Health Research, Rajasthan University of Health Science, Jaipur; Dr Varaprasad Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Shantha Biotechnics Pvt Ltd; Dr. Krishna Ella, Chairman & Managing Director, Bharat Biotech
Panelist: Dr. Vishwa Mohan Katoch, NASI-ICMR Chair on Public Health Research, Rajasthan University of Health Science, Jaipur; Dr Varaprasad Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Shantha Biotechnics Pvt Ltd; Dr. Krishna Ella, Chairman & Managing Director, Bharat Biotech; Dr Rajeev Dhere, Executive Director, Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd.; Dr. K. Anandkumar, MD, Indian Immunologicals Ltd.; Dr. M. Sivakumaran, Director, Aurobindo Pharma Limited; Mr. LakshminarayanaNeti, Chief Operating Officer, Biological E
Dr. Katoch began his session by implying on the fact of encouraging discussion about landscape of the country, the extremes of the temperature and how it will fit in the ecosystem of the country. He talked about how India will have to build on the supply system that it already has. He discussed about other vaccines which are already there and needed by the population and how we need to think about the total picture. Talking about COVID vaccine, he said the responsibility lies in terms of making a choice and making a decision. The vaccine may have a lot of positive aspects but we must also look at the negative aspects. Dr Katoch urged that the requirement of close monitoring is essential during the introduction of the vaccine into the population. He ended with the note that COVID vaccine will be required for a long time and not for a short time.
Dr. Varaprasad Reddy mentioned that there are very many unanswered questions and gaps for planning and execution of the mega scale vaccination. Though GOI has allowed pre-manufacturing before the license, we need to have answers to price and dosage. He raised questions on policies, IP, prioritization, grey market and advantages taken by the political organizations and companies. He warned if the distribution system is not clear we will be shifting from pandemic to ‘pandemonic’.Dr Reddy thus stressed on the fact that GOI needs to define and implement policies effectively.
Dr. Krishna Ella gave insights into Bharat Biotech’s progress with regard to COVID Vaccine. He said that while it is important to know that they not only work on manufacturing the vaccines but also work on last-mile delivery of vaccines. The vaccine’s peer review will be published in journals soon for public consumption. He clarified why the results are not disclosed citing that there is an international clinical protocol which is being followed. He mentioned that they have to recover the R&D cost and if they cannot then nobody will be encouraged to do innovative R&D.
During the panel discussion, Dr. K. Anandkumar put the point forward that Indian Immunologicals doesn’t want to cause disruptions in the existing vaccine supply whether it is a pentavalent vaccine or Hepatitis-B. Unfortunately the tenders for conventional vaccines are less owing to people reserving their capacity for COVID-19 vaccines. Dr Rajeev Dhere, asked about the timeframe for availability of the vaccine as the trials are getting over and there is a wait for the safety data. He also raised questions about the distribution challenges and the terms of program suability as this is a vaccine for every person? He assured that all the contracts with GOI and UNICEF for other vaccines will be honouredand there won’t be any shortfall.
Vaccinating a billion people, including hundreds of millions of adults for the first time, against Covid-19 is going to be a daunting and unprecedented challenge. From choosing a bouquet of vaccines to grappling with distribution to identifying groups for the early jabs, “everything is a challenge”. Stitching up manufacturing contracts with vaccine makers with a “reasonably good portfolio” of vaccines should help India give sufficient doses to people relatively quickly. A well-regulated public-private partnership is the way out for such a large scale operation. Who will pay for it? This is possibly the biggest question. Will the government acquire all the doses and roll out a state-run free or subsidized vaccination programme? Or will the affluent pay for their doses at market prices through private distribution and sale? These questions needs to be answered. A good vaccine for India should cost below 50 cents a shot, be plentifully available and delivered as a single dose.
The Panel Recommendations: The Government should promote Innovations through R&D in academic institutions and in the industry through programs such as promoting academy-industry interactions, Incentivizing R&D in the private sector through weighted deduction of tax for the amount spent in R&D (which was cut initially and now totally removed). GOI slogan should be “Made in India” and not “Make in India”, which leads to the discovery and development of innovative products from the Indian Industry.
Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/oaoMNTfLWeA
Panel 2: Preparedness for the Distribution of Emerging COVID-19 Vaccines
Moderator: Devendra Mishra, Executive Director and Co-Founder, BSMA
Speakers: Dr. Harish Iyer, Senior Scientific Advisor, India Country Office, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr Anjan Ray, Director, CSIR-IIP Deharadun
Panelists: Dr. Harish Iyer, Senior Scientific Advisor, India Country Office, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr Anjan Ray, Director, CSIR-IIP Deharadun; Mr. Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry; Mr. Franck Toussaint, Managing Director, Biolog Europe; Mr. Deepak Sapra, CEO, API & Services, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratory
Dr. Harish Iyer began the 2nd panel with an appreciation for what the Indian companies have brought to the pipeline not only for India but on a global scale. He presented on the preparedness for the supply chain and started with the discussion on where we are today. He talked about the challenge of two vaccines which are currently having an efficacy rate of 95% and 94% and need to be stored at -80 degree Celsius & -20 degree Celsius respectively. He expressed his concern that these companies may not have sufficient capacity to help supply LICs/LMICs including India due to manufacturing and storage capacity limitations. He also mentioned about the challenges in terms of unprecedented global situation for regulators and vaccine program officials.
Dr Anjan Ray threw light upon the core issues of preparedness for distribution, vaccine stability, increasing the level of cold chain complexity, and about learning from the past failures and immunization delays. As a closing note he talked about integrating current surveillance and diagnostic initiatives, creating infrastructure for dry ice and liquid nitrogen, drone-based delivery system etc.
Mr Rajiv Nath emphasized on the fact that each delivery would require different kind of syringe and needle mechanism and about how HMD is preparing to ramp-up the production of single dose syringes to1 billion by middle of next year.
Mr. Franck Toussaint reflected how Belgium and India though nothing is comparable in terms of size are close in terms of challenges – like building capacity in airports and in very short time need to get ready with capabilities of cold chain facilities. He talked about doing more tech transfer in terms of cold chain management. He stressed about cooperation between authorities, between all stakeholders, from the packaging, the manufacturing, the government, all the politics, because this is a global challenge.
Dr Sapra shared about the collaboration between Dr. Reddy’s and the Gamaliya Institute in Russia through the Russian Direct Investment Fund and their work on Sputnik vaccine which is based on the human genome viral vector-based platform and storage of this vaccine is currently at – 18 degreeCelsius. He updated on the status of the clinical trials and the start of mass production. We also pointed out the necessity to sort the logistics and supply chain.
The Panel Recommendations: The COVID -19 Vaccine needs equitable and global distribution. Managing vaccine supply chains in developing countries is challenging. We need simple data-capture systems to understand the stock and flow of vaccines in the supply chain. The time to prepare for distributing a COVID -19 vaccine in a way that is effective and equitable is now. It will have a long-term payoff by helping us to prevent future pandemics.
Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/eBXKhaIiM3c
Panel 3: Cold Chain Shipping, Storage and Last Mile Delivery
Moderator: Mr. Vishal Gandhi, Founder & CEO, BIORx Venture Advisors Pvt Ltd
Speaker: Dr. Satish D. Ravetkar, Executive Director, Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd.
Panelist: Dr. Satish D. Ravetkar, Executive Director, Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd.; Dr. Mahesh Bhalgat, Chief Operating Officer, Syngene; Mr. Rahul Agarwal, Director, Kool-ex; Mr. Manish Sanghai, Sr. Director-Laboratory Solutions, Thermo Fisher Scientific, India; Mr. Masanari Arari, Founder & CEO, KII Corporation
Dr. Satish D Ravetkar began his presentation by giving a general view that India is not only the hub for manufacturing but is also ahead in use of vaccination program while emphasizing that the fact that vaccine quality and supply chain is a very important process. He further mentioned cold chain is a complex biological process and ensuring consistent safety and efficacy of a vaccine has long been recognized as an essential element in the disease control program. Efficacy of the vaccine depends on the storage temperature. He said that the vaccine has got more benefits than the disease itself and in his opinion, the vaccine should be launched as of yesterday. On being asked how one addresses the challenge to contribute to the upstream of manufacturing process to procurement to last-mile delivery at scale, Dr Ravetkar replied that India is well advanced in technology, India has cold refrigerators, vans which have got GPS, cloud computing and AI and the system is well established. They should do mock trails as it will highlight lot of issues like shortage of cold storage.
Mr. Rahul Agarwal, who spoke next said that the most important factor here is that there needs to be a proper planning of the networks. It’s very important for the government to engage the existing stakeholders, the pharma companies and the logistics service providers. Mr Agarwal , while addressing last-mile challenges, replied that they have been doing transportation of products under -20degrees Celsius for long and they have the right technology available.
Mr. Manish Sanghai shared that WHO and CDC have come up with clear guidelines on the usage of the cold storage equipment to minimize wastage. He said that Thermo Fisher Scientific has been the frontrunner in adopting technologies as per the WHO and CDC guidelines and they have the extensive range of freezers and ultra-low temperature products which have variable speed compressors, very low vibration and very high temperature stability.
Dr. Mahesh Bhalgat discussed about how all three vaccines that are the front runners have different storage conditions and they all have different schedules of administrations. All of these are really strong logistical challenges that we need to prepare for and therefore need to have really strong distribution systems, strong monitoring, and strong data collection channels. At the end of the day, all of this needs to be administered in the background of what we’re talking about for something that would be suitable at the scale of India, which is 1.3 billion population. We obviously need the infrastructure to make all of this happen.
During the panel discussion Mr. Masanari Arai was asked about his company’s plan to integrate the challenge of providing a scalable reliable real-time monitoring solution which can track the temperature till last-mile delivery including managing unforeseen circumstances. He answered that digitalization is really key for monitoring. Right, now, the monitoring is implemented in a very isolated way and so you cannot really do end to end. Real time monitoring is important to take action when something happens so you can take action and to make this scalability happen, the cost of each monitoring is really important. And then those kinds of sensor device, it’s really becoming really cheap right now and also connectivity is becoming cheap.
Vishal Gandhi set the tone of the Panel discussion by sharing the key facts before the audience and requested all panelists to suggest single liner recommendation to the Government for effective implementation of one of largest public healthcare programs in India.
The Panel Recommendations: India has some 27,000 “cold chain” stores from where stocked vaccines can reach more than eight million locations. There is an urgent need to design a system that can do 10 million vaccinations a day across the length and breadth of the country but all unified by a digital backbone. India should use Aadhaar, the unique 12-digit identification number that over a billion Indians use to access welfare and pay taxes, to record and track each dose.
Youtube link: https://youtu.be/0mLEWJILVtE
Panel 4: Building Digital Infrastructure to Ensure Supply of Vaccines and Timely Vaccination
Moderator: Dr. P. Ratnakar, Global Practice Head Life Sciences, TECH MAHINDRA
Speaker: Prof. Soundar Kumara, Allen, E., & Allen, M., Pearce Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, USA
Panelist: Prof. Soundar Kumara, Allen, E., & Allen, M., Pearce Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, USA; Prof. N. Viswanadham, Emeritus Professor & INSA Honorary Scientist, IISc Bangalore; Mr. Ajith Pai, Chief Operating Officer, Delhivery; Mr. Ajit Kumar, RealMeds (IOT & Block Chain Solution Provider)
In recent weeks, not one but two companies have announced COVID-19 vaccines with efficacy rates of more than 90%. Such an achievement is a first for vaccine development. However, the world’s need for trailblazing technology has not yet been met. One of the biggest challenges is still ahead – how to distribute this vaccine to every living person around the globe. In this global first, digital infrastructure could play an essential role. How can recipients of the vaccine rest assured that their vaccines have not been compromised by faulty storage handling, putting recipients and their surrounding social environment at risk? Is it possible to monitor and verify proper storage of the vaccine? The answer could lie in digital infrastructure.
Dr Soundar Kumara briefed on the possibilities with his presentation on Building Digital Infrastructure to ensure supply of vaccines and timely vaccinations. He spoke about key takeaways which require the development of operation system for cyber physical vaccination eco-system. He spoke about Infrastructure available like Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) which had reached 32 states and Union Territories and will soon be rolled out in the remaining states. This can be used for efficient vaccine logistics management. Over 41,420 vaccine cold chain handlers have trained on eVIN. He also spoke about 3 different platforms: Transactional platforms which facilitate transactions between individuals and organizations; Innovation platforms which consist of a foundation of technological building blocks on top of which many innovators can contribute through complementary products, services through application programming interfaces (API); Integrated Platform where technology, product or service that had elements of both transaction as well as innovation platforms can be merged. He addressed some of the major challenges like real-time monitoring and control, real-time distributed data management, Integration between Aadhaar, eVIN, and Vaccination Health Records. He spoke about Public-private partnerships for eVIN-Aadhaar-voting systems, Blockchain Platform companies, IoT, Blockchain platform for tracking products and counterfeit drugs.
During the panel discussion which followed Dr Kumara’s presentation, Mr. Ajit Pai, talked about the nuances in the vaccine supply chain. He talked about two aspects that are important – one is physical infrastructure with regard to refrigeration. He emphasized on the need to understand the gaps in physical infrastructure. As well as the digital infrastructure. What the need of the hour is leg-level traceability of every single transaction that happens in supply chain. He quoted FedEx founder and Chairman Fred Smith famously said, “The information about the package is just as important as the package itself.”
Prof Viswanadham explained what infrastructure is available for the supply of vaccine and stressed on the importance of traceability. He mentioned that this is a great opportunity for India to create digital health record data. Ajit Kumar shared perspectives and mentioned that the cold chain logistics organizations alone cannot do the end-to-end vaccination project. He emphasized that nearly 80% of India stay in the villages and the need to take into account the facilities needed to convert hard and soft infrastructure on ground.
The panelist agreed that hospitals, startups, and all the logistics companies to form an ecosystem and it becomes important to form a control tower which can help track and trace and this will be possible only by creating a digital infrastructure. While Dr Kumara enlightened about the western aspect, Ajit Kumar proposed incentivizing the program to ensure participation.
The Panel Recommendations: India need to plan and create a digital infrastructure for inventory management and last-mile delivery of COVID -19 vaccines. The procurement and distribution need to be centralized. The government and authorities need to deliberate on conceptualization and implementation mechanisms for creation of a digital infrastructure for inventory management and delivery mechanism of the vaccine including tracking of vaccination process with particular focus on last mile delivery.
Youtube link: https://youtu.be/mvLs8FPHlvk
Panel 5: Government Regulations to Ensure Safe Immunization with Reliabillity& Quality Assurance
Moderator: Dr. Y. Madhvi, Sr. Principal Scientist & Prof. Acsir, CSIR- NISTADS
Speakers: Dr. S. Eswara Reddy, Joint Drugs Controller (India), Central Drugs Standard Control Organization; Prof. Gagan Deep Kang, Professor, Dept. of Gastrointestinal Sciences, Christian Medical College, Vellore; Prof. Ashok Mahapatra, Vice Chancellor SOA; former Director AIMS Bhubaneswar speaker; Dr. Nitin Jain, Scientist F, Department of Biotechnology
Dr. S. Eswara Reddy spoke about what are the regulatory changes and the new regulations that Government of India has come up with to streamline with contemporary regulatory practices. He discussed how to ensure the safety of the vaccine regulatory paths which were being clearly defined and where the applicant has to submit proof of data and update review committee on a regular basis. He also pointed various challenges in making this program a success till the last mile.
Prof. Gagan Deep Kang presented the institutional perspective and mentioned that she has no doubt that Indian ecosystem is ready to meet the challenges. She explained various phases of clinical trials in detail as well as the process of applying for licensing.
She addressed the safety aspect of the vaccine and assured that the safety monitoring by the regulators does not stop and the manufacturer is expected to provide periodic safety update reports to the regulator which continues for a variable period for new products. AEFI surveillance system will be devised as additional safety requirement to keep track of any adverse event. Prof Kang stated that it is very important to understand what steps are taken, at what stage and about the efforts taken to assure safety.
Prof. Ashok Mahapatra expressed his concerns regarding the vaccine. He began by putting forth as a clinician and an administrator, they will be dealing with three factors out of four in the supply chain: procurement, storage and distribution. The vaccine manufacturing cycle has been compressed to 10 -12 months and that as a clinician the question of safety and efficacy arises. He raised very valid questions about how many doses are required per person, how long the antibody will stay in the body, how does one decide who will be getting the vaccine. He also questioned the ethics part and about the immunogenicity as each patient will be different. He also expressed his concern about children not being part of the vaccination program.
Dr. Nitin Jain who represented Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India discussed about Government Regulations on Biosafety and Biosecurity. He highlighted about State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) and District Level Committees, which monitor the activities and field trials. He gave insights into the Rapid Response Regulatory Framework for COVID 19, whereby an empowered committee of RCGM and CDSCO has been constituted to examine and deal with applications for COVID 19 Vaccine Development. His presentation gave details about the process to be followed as well as the roadmap of functions of IBSCs pertaining to steps of application evaluation, approval procedure, monitoring & compliance, and online transactions through IBKP.
The panel argued about the licensing, safety and efficacy of different COVID vaccine candidates, compensation available for the clinical trial subjects and how will the authorities tackle the ethical part of the vaccination process.
Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/KsYHDoKMCX8
Panel 6: Showcasing Innovative Technologies for the Last Mile Delivery of Vaccines
Chairman: Dr. Manish Diwan, Head, Strategic Partnership & Entrepreneurship Development, BIRAC
Speakers: Dr. Pravansu Mohanty / Dr. Laura Bronsart, Somnio Global, LL (Upkara, Inc.), MI, USA; Dr. Suman Chakraborty, Institute Chair Professor & J C Bose National Fellow, IIT Kharagpur; Dr. Atul Sardana, Founder, Alfa Corpuscles; Mr. Mayur Shetty, Founder, BlackFrog Technologies; Mr. Samit Jain, Managing Director, Pluss Advanced Technologies; Prof. Raghavan Varadarajan, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Moderated by Dr Manish Diwan, Head, Strategic Partnership & Entrepreneurship Development, BIRAC; the panel focused on innovative technologies for the last mile delivery of vaccines. Dr Diwan mentioned about the various preventive measures adopted to stop the spread of the pandemic. In this process India has emerged not only self-sufficient but also has become a front runner in many of the sections. In the last 10 months India has reached a position where expectations are not only from Indians but from the world at large. He introduced the start-ups, which have come up with innovative technologies for addressing the challenges of COVID -19 pandemic.
Dr. Atul Sardana spoke about the safety syringes which can help deliver the COVID Vaccine to last mile very safely without generating any bio medical waste at a much lower cost and can deliver twice as much vaccine. He presented the cartridge load safety syringe which can carry 10 times more doses, as compared to a prefilled syringe, thus reducing the cost of cold chain. The polymer cartridge which is used in the syringe has zero chances of contamination while filling as well as it will ensure 100% consistency in administered dosage. He gave an insight into the cost effectiveness and effectiveness of this technology for the last mile challenge of COIVD vaccine program.
Dr Samit Jain’s talk was about the role of phase change materials and how it can help in last mile delivery of vaccines. He elaborated on how freezing and thawing the vaccine is a widespread problem because of the temperature variations that happen at various stages of supply chain. The freeze-thaw cycle can potentially compromise the potency and efficacy of the freeze sensitive vaccines. Dr Jain presented how Phase Change Materials (PCM) which stores large energy in the form of latent heat can be used as thermal batteries and can release and absorb heat over substantial number of cycles. His innovation, Celsure which has smart sensing and end-to-end traceability will assure a very efficient last mile stage for the vaccine supply chain.
The next presenter Mayur Shetty, whose start-up Blockfrog Technologies has come up with an innovation which is an alternative for icebox to prevent vaccine wastage. The patented tech supported by BIRAC endeavours enables safe last-mile transport of vaccines. The need for such a tech has heightened amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Emvólio, is a portable, battery-powered refrigeration device that strictly maintains any pre-set temperature up to 12 hours for last-mile transport of vaccines. The device maintains the optimum temperature of two and eight degrees Celsius that vaccines and other biological samples need. The patented rapid cooling technology can be used for safe last-mile transport of vaccines, breast milk, blood serums and plasmas, medications, and specimens with minimal freeze-thaw cycles. Each time a user opens the device to retrieve contents and subjects the cold chamber to ambient air, the technology ensures the temperature in the cold chamber returns to the set levels. This ensures minimal freeze-thaw cycles for critical biological samples. Other capabilities include continuous temperature monitoring, location tracking, state of charge indication, communication with headquarters via live tracking, and vital statistics for improved coverage. The device has a two-litre capacity; it can easily carry about 50 vials of vaccine, enough for at least 300 children in a day. It also helps transport of COVID-19 swab samples.
Dr. Pravansu Mohanty & Dr. Laura Bronsart, Somnio Global from Upkara presented their inventive technique of stabilizing and preserving therapeutic proteins at ambient and elevated temperature, by utilizing rapid anhydrobiotic vitrification in a proprietary vitrification medium. This process is shown to be able to fully preserve RNA quality on membrane spots, even those stored at 55o C, and provides a reliable method for collection and preservation of specimens and vaccines at ambient temperatures. The technology is scalable for mass production with minimal reagent and capital equipment thus a financially attractive solution compared to other similar technologies such as lyophilization.
Prof. Raghavan Varadarajan who represented Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore spoke about their research on the design of a highly thermotolerant SARS-CoV-2 spike fragment immunogen.
Dr. Suman Chakraborty, Institute Chair Professor & J C Bose National Fellow, IIT Kharagpur, an expert in the diagnostic technologies shared his view on how there is lot of synergistic similarities on various aspects of developing diagnostic and vaccination technologies. He showcased COVIRAP, a diagnostic technology innovation by him and his team which not only provides faster and accurate results at much lower cost. This cost-effective technology solution is important as the quality, availability of healthcare services is skewed towards the urban centers than the rural areas which represents 72% of population. There are certain issues of non-availability of power, extreme environments, and large time gaps between tests and delay due to distance related factors in case of rural areas. Dr Chakraborty mentioned that COVIRAP’s simple technology of detecting viral RNA makes it a high-end diagnostic kit which can be used in extreme rural conditions and can create a paradigm shift in healthcare services.
Concluding the session, Dr Diwan congratulated all the innovators who presented their innovations which can be unleashed for new and better opportunities for delivering healthcare services.
Note: This report was prepared by the team lead by Dr. Sujatha at PharmaBio World and Ms.Vishal Gandhi, Founder & Director at BIORx Venture Advisors Pvt Ltd.
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