The stark truth that
more than 22 million children in the world (about one-fifth of infants) have
still not been immunized with basic vaccines and can succumb to deadly
illnesses, justifies the challenge ahead, spelt out by the theme for this
year's World Immunization Week, "Immunization for a healthy future. Know,
Vaccine preventable diseases include measles
, diphtheria, polio,
and B, typhoid and TB, to name
Medindia heard Dr. Davinder Gill, Chief Executive
Officer, Hilleman Laboratories
speak on addressing the challenge of making the existing vaccines accessible and affordable
for the unimmunized in India and other developing nations.
Q. Could you explain thermostability technology and how this
will help improve coverage of routine Immunization in India?
Many first-generation vaccines
have not been developed
with the specific needs of countries with poor infrastructure for vaccine
delivery in mind. This is a much needed exploration of how to tackle one of the
greatest public health and logistics challenges in the developing world -
costly, difficult-to-maintain refrigerated shipping paths from the
manufacturing plant to the patient.
At Hilleman Laboratories we are developing innovative technological
interventions around thermostability which is a definitive solution to the low
coverage of the Routine Immunization in developing countries like India. The
thermo-stable property of vaccines enables them to withstand tough climatic
conditions of countries in Asia and Africa.
to a recent McKinsey & Company report, one of the key
constraints of enabling deeper vaccine penetration in India is attributed to
limitations in distribution, public health delivery system and supply. Distribution is hampered by an inadequate cold
chain and constraint to last-mile distribution, which has limited penetration
of basic vaccines to 60-70 percent.
vaccines have transformed public health throughout the world, for children in
particular, the burden of vaccine preventable disease in India is still
substantial. Close to 2 million Indians died of vaccine preventable diseases in
2012. This heat stability technology will enable ease of transport for deeper
penetration of vaccines.
Q. The burden of unimmunized children is
huge in India. Could you tell us about the challenge at hand and your immediate
and long term goals to address this gap?
With a quarter of the current birth cohort left unimmunized in the country,
India severely lags behind even when compared with lesser developed nations as
well as its immediate neighbors. According to WHO, 70% of the world's 22.6
million unimmunized children live in 12 nations, with India home to the largest
chunk of 6.9 million. According to the Immunization Report by
UNICEF and WHO, against the 67% cover in India, our neighbors boast of a much
higher coverage - Sri Lanka tops the list at 97% followed by Bangladesh at 95%,
Bhutan at 92%, Pakistan at 88% and Nepal at 85%.
We aim to complement the current ecosystem and help expand
the supply chain, adding scale and lowering the manufacturing cost; making the
existing vaccines accessible and affordable for the unimmunized in India and
other developing nations.
specific compliance or regulatory requirements set by the government of India
in implementing your vaccination project?
No. Currently, we are not aware of any specific compliance
or regulatory requirements set by the government of India. As a vaccine company
we adhere to the usual quality compliance regulated by the government.
at Hilleman Laboratories are in constant touch with regulatory bodies and
policy makers in the country. With the vision to achieve 95% coverage of
Expanded Program of Immunization in India which will merit 70 - 80 million
doses annually, one point that has constantly resonated during these
discussions is the fact that an important primary approach at Hilleman
Laboratories is bringing in innovation to act as a catalyst in bridging the gap
between academia and product development by increasing the efficiency of
existing vaccines with heat stable, easy to use, affordable and novel packaging
we are not completely redesigning well established vaccines with requisite
industry regulation compliance, these vaccines with interventions like
thermostability may be easier to develop, can be quickly moved through the
regulatory process and at the same time be cost-effective and fill the need of
affordable innovation. Thus, reach the vast pool of unimmunized in the country
in a timely and affordable manner.
you elaborate on some of the challenges you preempt during the implementation
of your products?
There are some evident challenges that we anticipate during
the implementation of our products. The foremost being the scale at which the
Be it in the form of number of unimmunized children or the varied geographies,
such factors compel the system to maintain a status quo or continue with the
existing state of affairs. What we need to do here is move away from the status
quo and be more aware from the field perspective, focus on training and
knowledge sharing. At Hilleman Laboratories, we are working for low-cost
systems, easy to use so that the vaccine and the diluent are all in a single
container closure and easy for the field worker, to be reconstituted and
delivered to the child.
But here I would like to mention the second challenge we are
making best efforts to reduce - Affordability. There are several conditions
wherein technological interventions and innovations can actually lead to high
pricing. But ultimately innovation balanced with affordability will bring us
closer to our overall vision of increasing accessibility and affordability of
vaccines in developing nations.
Q. What are you currently focusing on, in
Hilleman Laboratories, in your vaccine research division?
Hilleman Laboratories is focused
on creating an innovative and sustainable vehicle for the development of high
impact, safe, and affordable vaccines for developing countries in areas of
unmet health needs. It also seeks to develop optimized vaccines, where existing
products may be re-engineered to achieve greater impact in resource limiting
environments. Based in India, the organization will facilitate engagements and
partnerships with a broad range of experts in vaccine research, policy and
manufacturing to develop and mature its R&D pipeline.
R&D efforts at Hilleman Labs primarily focus on diseases prevalent in
developing nations giving priority to vaccines that have not attracted
significant academic or private sector research attention but target diseases
with significant burden on developing nations.
. In a nutshell, can you summarize Hilleman Laboratories' operating
Laboratories, an equal joint-venture partnership formed between Merck & Co.
and Wellcome Trust is a not-for-profit organization focused on bringing in innovation to act as a catalyst in bridging the
gap between academia and product development, leveraging a cadre of
talented scientists from around the globe.
expertise in medical research is targeted towards creating new vaccines in
areas of unmet needs as well as adapting existing vaccines for more effective
delivery in low income countries. Numerous barriers hamper access to
live-saving vaccines for millions of people living in the developing world.
First, the lack of commercial return has limited private sector investment in
new solutions for diseases that predominantly affect low income countries.
Secondly, many licensed vaccines available in the market today were developed
and manufactured with industrialized world citizens in mind.
aim to create a novel immunization platform by employing modern technologies
Reduced footprint •
Over the long-term, Hilleman Laboratories seeks
to collaborate, exchange ideas and build a meaningful dialogue and advocacy
platform for vaccine discovery to ultimately strengthen public health systems
and immunization programs in developing countries.