NEW DELHI – India’s first indigenous mRNA vaccine received approval from India’s Comptroller General of Medicines to begin its phase I / II human clinical trials, the Earth Science Ministry said on December 11.
The new mRNA candidate vaccine, HGCO19, has been developed by Gennova, a Pune-based company and supported with an initial grant under the Ind-CEPI mission from the department of biotechnology of the ministry of science and technology.
The mRNA vaccine does not use the conventional model to produce an immune response. Instead, the mRNA vaccine carries the molecular instructions for making the protein in the body via synthetic RNA from the virus.
The host organism uses this to produce the viral protein that is recognized and thus causes the organism to generate an immune response against the disease.
MRNA-based vaccines are scientifically the ideal choice to tackle a pandemic due to their rapid development. The mRNA vaccine is considered safe as it is not infectious, is not naturally integrated, and is degraded by standard cellular mechanisms.
They are expected to be very effective due to their inherent ability to be translated into the protein structure within the cell cytoplasm.
Furthermore, mRNA vaccines are completely synthetic and do not require a host for growth, eg eggs or bacteria. Therefore, they can be quickly manufactured economically under cGMP conditions to ensure their “availability” and “accessibility” for mass vaccination in a sustainable way.
Gennova, in collaboration with HDT Biotech Corporation, Seattle, USA, has worked together to develop an mRNA vaccine candidate. HGCO19 has already demonstrated safety, immunogenicity, and neutralizing antibody activity in animals.
The neutralizing antibody response of the vaccine in mice and non-human primates was comparable to sera from COVID-19 convalescent patients.
Gennova’s candidate vaccine uses the most prominent spike protein mutant (D614G) and also uses the self-amplified mRNA platform, which provides the advantage of a low-dose regimen compared to non-replicating mRNA or traditional vaccines.
HGCO19 uses adsorption chemistry to make the mRNA adhere to the surface of the nano-lipid carrier to improve the release kinetics of the mRNA within cells compared to encapsulation chemistry.
HGCO19 is stable at 2-8 degrees Celsius for two months. Gennova has completed all preliminary work and will soon begin Phase I / II human clinical trials as approval has been received from the DCGI office.
The Department of Biotechnology is implementing IndCEPI’s mission, ‘India Centered Epidemic Preparedness through Rapid Vaccine Development: Supporting Vaccine Development in India’, which is aligned with CEPI’s Global Initiative and aims to strengthen the development of vaccines and associated technologies for diseases of epidemic potential in India.
DBT’s Ind-CEPI mission is implemented by its PSU, the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council.
“The establishment of such an indigenous technology platform will not only enable India to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, but will also ensure preparedness for future outbreaks,” said Dr. Renu Swarup, Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology and President of BIRAC.