Adar Poonawalla, CEO and Owner of Serum Institute of India (SII) is putting $250 million of his family's fortune into a bid to ramp up manufacturing capacity to 1 billion doses through 2021.
"I decided to go all out," said the 39-year-old said. Among the initial skeptics were his father, Cyrus, the company's founder.
"He said: 'Look, it`s your money. If you want to blow it up, fine?'," Adar said in an interview to The Washington Post.
One prominent vaccine candidate requiring ultra-cold storage is "a joke" that will not work for the developing world. Anyone who declares how long a vaccine will confer immunity is talking "nonsense".
The world`s entire population will not be immunized until 2024, he says, contrary to rosier predictions.
Poonawalla is equally frank about the gamble his company, Serum Institute of India, is making in the pandemic.
Gavi (the vaccine alliance) and the Gates Foundation "want to assure vaccine supply at an affordable price," said Poonawalla, Serum`s chief executive. His aim, meanwhile, is to cover some of his costs. "At least my risk is taken away so I can sleep at night," he said, the report said.
The company has diverted capacity from existing vaccines and started work on a new production facility to be completed next year at its headquarters in Pune.
Poonawalla said the company has pledged to keep half of the vaccines it makes for use within India. It has already begun manufacturing the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said. About 20 million doses have been made, and he expects to have 10 times that amount ready in the next four months, the report said.
He is optimistic that in 2021, a new coronavirus vaccine will be licensed for public use every couple of months. "That`s the good news," Poonawalla said.
The less-good news is that it remains unclear which vaccine, if any, will offer long-term protection from the virus. "Nobody wants a vaccine that is only going to protect you for a few months," he said, the report said.