16 May 2022

‘Launch of a vaccine requires collaboration among all sectors’

Benefits of Covid vaccines far outweigh the disadvantages, says scientist Dr Hari Mohan Gobburu

The process of launching a vaccine or a drug needs collaboration among all sectors, said Dr Hari Mohan Gobburu, a scientist and consultant with various pharmaceutical companies.

Addressing IIJNM students on May 16, he explained the fundamentals of launching a cure or a drug. “A drug has an active and inactive component in it. From figuring out these components to conducting clinical trials, each drug takes seven to ten years to develop.”

Dr Gobburu said clinical trials is often an exhaustive process which undergoes several stages of scrutiny and approvals before the product is released to the public.

About the importance of multiple sectors in developing drugs, Dr Gobburu said: “It is a misconception that scientists in the lab are alone responsible in the process of launching a product. While they are an important part, there are other functions as well. For example, mathematicians are required to understand the data generated in research. Also, content writers are required to write about the medicines in several languages so that people in the deepest corners of the country understand it.”

Dr Gobburu presented a set of myths and facts, and asked the audience whether they were true or false.

“We have branded drugs, and we have generic drugs. Almost 300 drugs in India are the cheapest in the world. That largely happens due to innovation in the research and development department, making the process simpler and simpler. Additionally, we have government regulation on pricing… perhaps the only industry to have so,” he said.

The interactive session then progressed towards the situation the world was presented with during the Covid pandemic. Asked how vaccines for Covid-19 were developed in a short timeframe, he said: “Often, the problem with India is that academia and the pharmaceutical industry work in isolation, apart from each other. This increases the time it takes from… research till when it is launched in public. During Covid, however, that wasn’t the case.”

He explained how all sectors concerned — academicians, government authorities and the pharmaceutical industry — came together to develop the vaccines.

When the students asked about the efficacy of the vaccines, he said: “The vaccines have been developed keeping 20 to 24 variants in mind. And we have all seen how devastating the lack of vaccines can be during Delta. So the benefits do far outweigh the disadvantages.”

The talk concluded with Dr Gobburu explaining how institutions like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities enabled cheaper and faster vaccine development.

Dr Gobburu was previously Associate Director of Global Sourcing with Eli Lilly and Company, an American pharmaceutical company.

By Shristi Achar

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