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ICMR invites companies to develop vaccines, diagnostic kits for monkey pox

According to WHO, monkeypox is a viral zoonosis – a virus transmitted to humans from animals – with symptoms similar to smallpox although clinically less severe.

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The National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune under ICMR has isolated the monkeypox virus from the clinical specimen of a patient which can pave the way for the development of diagnostic kits and vaccines against the disease, ICMR said.

With India isolating the virus, ICMR also invited expression of interest (EOI), proposing to hand over the strain to interested Indian vaccine manufacturers, pharma companies and in-vitro diagnostic industry partners for the development of indigenous vaccines against monkeypox and diagnostic kits for detection of the disease.

The development comes amid India reporting four cases of monkeypox — three from Kerala and one from Delhi — so far.

Dr Pragya Yadav, a senior scientist at NIV, told PTI, For smallpox live attenuated vaccine was successful for mass immunisation in the past. Similar approaches on new platforms can be tried for making vaccines against monkeypox. The virus isolation enhances India’s capacity to do research and development in many other directions.”

At present, fluid inside the lesions on the skin are being used for virus isolation as they have the highest viral titre.

Dr Yadav said monkeypox virus is an enveloped double-stranded DNA virus having two distinct genetic clades — the central African (Congo Basin) clade and the west African clade.

The recent outbreak which has affected several countries leading to a worrisome situation is caused by the West African strain which is less severe than Congo lineage reported earlier. Genomic sequence of the Indian strains has 99.85 per cent match with the West African strains, circulating globally,” Dr Yadav explained.

The EOI documents states that ICMR is willing to make available monkeypox virus strain/isolates for undertaking research and development validation as well as manufacturing activities using characterised isolates of monkeypox virus under the joint collaboration in the public-private partnership mode for development of vaccine candidate against monkeypox disease and diagnostic kits for diagnosis of the infection.

The ICMR is in possession of characterised monkeypox virus isolates/strain and is thereby willing to collaborate with experienced vaccine manufacturers as well as the in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) manufacturers on a Royalty basis on fixed term contract condition for undertaking R&D and manufacturing activities for joint development and validation of five potential vaccine candidate against monkeypox disease, development of diagnostic kit (IVD), for detection of the monkeypox virus leading to product development,” the EOI document said.

The firm(s)/organisation(s) would be granted rights to undertake further R&D, manufacture, sell, and commercialise the