Syngene has been working on serological antibody testing kits, executive chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw told TOI. Serological testing can be used to detect antibodies present in the blood to identify people in a population who have come in contact with coronavirus.
“We have prepared an excellent kit, something that is developed on the S-protein compared to an Abbott or Roche which is from an N protein. This will be far more sensitive and not give false positive data. We now need to partner with a kit maker and transfer the technology. Manufacturing the kit is not our domain,” said Mazumdar-Shaw.
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For almost all Covid-19 vaccine projects, the target is the S-protein or spike protein which helps the virus latch on to lung cells. If the body has antibodies against the Sprotein, which it can acquire through vaccination, the virus can be neutralised when it enters the body.
The company is close to tying up with an Indian kit manufacturer, but Mazumdar-Shaw declined to name it. Syngene is set to send it to the National Institute of Biologicals (NIB) for its go-ahead before sharing the technology with the maker. The cost of a test is expected to be a maximum of Rs 250, she said.
Biocon is also working to repurpose its novel biologic Itolizumab to treat complications caused by coronavirus. The drug, used to treat psoriasis, a skin condition, was commercialised in India in 2013. The company has got permission from the Drug Controller General of India to use it in moderate to severe patients with Covid-19 complications.
The drug has shown positive results on a few patients. A 35-year-old critically ill Covid-19 patient in Mumbai who was put on a clinical trial for Itolizumab, showed improvement.
While it is too early to predict whether this drug can be used to cure the disease, the Biocon chief said that there is “something to address serious patients. If it works well then it is a very big treatment for Covid. Remdevisir (from Gilead) has not reduced death but reduced hospital stay. It works when one uses it in the early stage and is not a miracle cure. We are planning to enroll many more patients for our trial.”
Mazumdar-Shaw cautioned that even if a vaccine is discovered by the end of the year by any pharma company, it is unlikely to be immediately applicable on all.
“It will not be kind of a slam dunk. You will only get emergency use and conditional approvals till all the safety and efficacy parameters are evaluated. Now, due to the urgency, it will get approved but we have to see whether it is the answer and you cannot get the answer in such a short time,” she said.