What Is Corbevax, India’s Cheapest COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate?

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India’s newest COVID-19 vaccine candidate Corbevax developed and manufactured by Biological E is in its Phase 3 trials and the government has already booked an advance order of 300 million doses of the vaccine from the company.

Corbevax, which is a “recombinant protein sub-unit” vaccine is made up of a specific part of the SARS CoV-2 virus, which is the spike protein on the virus’s surface. Vaccines for a disease are often made using the body of the causing agent of the disease, and Corbevax uses the spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19.

How does Corbevax work?

Early reports explain, the spike protein allows the virus to enter the cells of the body of an individual to help replicate inside the body and cause the disease. But if the protein alone is injected into the body, it is not harmful because the rest of the virus itself is absent. This lets the body identify the foreign material (virus) and develop an antibody against it. Therefore, when the real virus enters the body, the already present immune response against the virus will make it less likely for the person to fall ill.

The technology to inject spike protein to develop immunity against a disease is not new and has been previously used in making hepatitis B vaccines. However, Corbevax in the first vaccine made for COVID-19 to use this technology.

Cheapest vaccine for COVID-19?

Corbevax is said to be the cheapest vaccines available for COVID-19 in India for about Rs 500 for both doses of the vaccine. According to The Times of India, the pricing may even be less than Rs 400 for both doses. The final price of the vaccine has not been decided yet.

According to Biological E, most of Corbevax’ ingredients are cheap and easy to find, making it possibly one of the cheapest vaccines for COVID-19 after its release.

Development of Corbevax

Although the vaccine is indigenously produced in India, Biological E has collaborated with Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine which has been working on recombinant protein vaccines for SARS and MERS viruses for about a decade.

Dr Peter Hotez, who is the Professor and Dean at the Medical school said that the manufacturing of the vaccine is the same as the production of beer, the only difference is that instead of releasing alcohol, a yeast releases the recombinant protein in the body of a person.