Source: Reuters

The results are not yet known and yet the order is given. The Serum Institute in India, the world's largest vaccine company, readies its machines to produce 500 doses per minute – something it has already started, taking on the production of the Oxford vaccine at its own risk. The pharmaceutical andIt is controlled by a small and very rich family from the Asian country, which started its fortune first with horse breeding but now stands out in the medical sector. And so he receives calls from presidents around the world.

Who answers the phone is Adar Poonawalla, executive director of the firm and the only son of the founder of the company who in April, after concluding an agreement with the University of Oxford, announced that he would start the tasks even before the clinical trials ended. And when you attend, you must be honest.

"I had to explain to everyone that I can't give the doses just like that," Poonawalla explained according to what was published by The New York Times. At 39, this Indian is in a place that perhaps he never believed he would be. Pulled by governments around the world, who need a solution to a health crisis that destroyed economies, he also knows that his country was crushed by the pandemic, that it has already caused more than 1,700,000 patients and more than 37,000 deaths, and that it has to help it. He will divide the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses, he says, providing half to India and the other half to the rest, but with a focus on the poorest countries.

"Very few people can produce at this cost, on this scale and at this speed," he adds, adding that he estimates that he is investing nearly 450 million dollars in this production. He also clarifies that he does not know if he will recover everything invested, however he stresses that he felt the obligation to take this risk: "We feel that this was our moment."


Adar Poonawalla is the director of the Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine company Credit: Twitter

But unlike other pharmaceutical companies that signed contracts with researchers from different institutes to produce vaccines, Serum has an advantage: it is run by a single family, which makes management somewhat simpler. Few of them make the decisions and therefore they do it quickly. Thus, in this way, they decided, for example, not to commit to loans of any kind: it is the company itself, each year produces 1.5 billion doses of other vaccines, which assumes the cost of production. Perhaps, guided by hope. Poonawalla, who only works closely with his father, Cyrus, a horse breeder, says he is "70 to 80 percent" certain that the Oxford vaccine will work.


Adar Poonawalla is the director of the Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine company
Adar Poonawalla is the director of the Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine company Credit: Twitter

The history

More than 50 years ago the Serum Institute was not this. Not. It was just a shed on a thoroughbred horse farm. Until one day Poonawalla father realized that instead of donating horses to a laboratory that needed his serum to produce vaccines, he could inject small amounts of toxins into his animals and then extract his serum, rich in antibodies, and then process it. to produce the vaccines himself.

The first was in 1967. Tetanus. Then came antidotes for snake bites, injections for tuberculosis, hepatitis, polio, and the flu. From Pune, his hometown, in the western state of Inda Maharashtra, Poonawalla built an empire out of cheap labor and advanced technology.

He signed contracts with Unicef, the Pan American Health Organization and dozens of countries, many of them poor, reached a staff of 500 workers and accumulated a fortune that already exceeds 5 billion dollars. In fact, in their country they are best known for owning a maharaja palace, many luxury cars, like Rolls-Royces and Ferraris, who for making life-saving vaccines.

And they expect success to replicate. The results of initial trials of the Oxford-designed vaccine showed that it activated antibody levels similar to those seen in patients who had Covid-19 and recovered, which is considered very good news. By the end of the tests, around November according to forecasts, Serum expects to have stored 300 million doses for commercial use.

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