Serum Institute of India is one of the eight key vaccine companies covered in the recently released first Access to Vaccines Index. In an exclusive interaction with Viveka Roychowdhury, Jayasree K Iyer, Executive Director, Access to Medicine Foundation touches on the success of the Pune-based company’s high volume-low revenue model and why local and international players should be willing to partner in global agendas like health security and child health
Serum Institute of India has chosen the high volume, low revenue business model. Will this be sustainable going forward? Will the company have enough revenues to invest in R&D?
It is difficult to determine what an ‘appropriate’ revenue amount would be to invest in R&D. The high volume, low revenue model has worked for Serum so far, and we see that they have invested into a rather substantial and important pipeline, so they do indeed know how to be cost effective in R&D, while ensuring affordable prices of products on the market.
As cost and hurdles in R&D increases due to, for example technically challenging vaccines that need to be developed, more money may need to be invested, so there will be limits of what companies can do. Collaborative partnerships help mitigate risks and share resources, and we have seen these work in e.g. malaria, meningococcal vaccine development.
Do you forecast further consolidation among vaccine manufacturers? For example, global players looking for local buys, for example, Sanofi’s acquisition of Shanta Biotech? Would this be good for patients in terms of affordability and accessibility?
What we have seen in the past few years points towards more consolidation, especially as many local players, with important products and innovations struggling to compete in this market. It’s important that local and international players reach out and are willing to partner in global agendas, such as global health security and the child health agenda. We need to encourage more manufacturers to enter and stay in the market (including incentivising biotechs). Consolidation means there may be less manufacturers supplying vaccines, and this can lead to problems in affordability and availability, especially in times of shortages. Having pre-qualified manufacturers is critical, whether its few or many manufacturers in the market as having reliable quality of vaccines available globally is critical for proper protection.
Will the Vaccine Index consider expansion to include other vaccine manufacturers like Bharat Biotech etc?
Yes. We welcome manufacturers who are interested in engaging with us towards this cause, and are in conversations with some of them.
Beyond the Vaccine Index, what is the progress on the index of generic manufacturers?
We are in discussion with several generic medicine manufacturers as part of our benchmark to combat antimicrobial resistance coming out by January 2018. And we are fundraising to create a dedicated generic medicine manufacturer benchmark highlighting good practices.