MUMBAI: The emergence of the Omicron strain could lead drug companies scrambling to the
drawing board to tweak their Covid-19 vaccine plans. US firm Novavax and Russia’s
Gamaleya Institute said on Monday that they had initiated work on developing new versions
of their respective vaccines adapted to the mutant strain. Pfizer and Moderna too said they
were racing to tweak their vaccines.

Other companies that are expected to modify their vaccines include the Pune-based
Gennova Biopharmaceuticals and the Hyderabad-based Bio E. Both were expected to
launch their shots over the next few months.

Novavax said on Monday it had already initiated development of a new recombinant spike
protein based on the known genetic sequence of B.1.1.529, and will have it ready to begin
testing and manufacturing within the next few weeks. “We will continue to work with urgency
to address this latest strain and the continued evolution of Covid-19,’’ a company official
told TOI.

Experts believe there is a “high probability’’ that companies may need to go back to the
drawing board, but will take a “final view’” based on the data on transmissibility, and efficacy
of existing vaccines on the new variant.

“Today we do not know the effectiveness of existing vaccines against this virus. Companies
must develop strategies to fight this virus by reinventing the vaccine against this novel
sequence,” a domestic vaccine player said on condition of anonymity.

Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is backi-ng Sputnik V, said,
“The Gamaleya Institute believes Sputnik V and Sputnik Light will neutralise Omicron as they
have the highest effica-cy against other mutatio-ns. In case a modification is needed, we will
provide several hundred million of Sputnik Omicron boosters by February 20.”

Companies attributed the confidence to adapt quickly to emerging strains on the technology
platforms in use. “Novavax’ recombinant nanoparticle technology allows us to adapt quickly
to strain changes and lends itself to inducing broadly cross-neutralising antibodies based on
the use of a full-length spike protein,” the company said.

Recent Posts

Share This Article!

Leave A Comment