- The AstraZeneca covid shot is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
- Adar Poonawalla’s Serum Institute has started phase one trials in the UK.
- The vaccine manufacturer SII plans to invest in facilities in the United Kingdom.
The Serum Institute of India, a vaccine manufacturer, plans to invest in facilities in the United Kingdom and might also produce inoculations there in the future, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The 240-million-pound ($334 million) project, according to Mr Johnson’s Downing Street office, will include a sales office, “clinical trials, research and development, and probably vaccine manufacturing.”
The Serum Institute of India (SII) is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, and has been at the forefront of developing the less expensive AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.
SII has also started phase one trials in the UK for a one-dose nasal coronavirus vaccine.
The vaccine maker’s plans, according to Downing Street, are part of a $1 billion trade and investment package with India that would generate over 6,500 jobs.
It was revealed ahead of Mr. Johnson’s virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
After Britain left the European Union last year, India has been high on London’s list of trade goals due to its large population and rising economy.
However, a surge in Covid-19 cases has strained the health system, prompting Mr Johnson to postpone a scheduled visit this month.
Prior to the current surge, India was exporting tens of millions of SII-made AstraZeneca shots to poorer countries via the Covax scheme.
Last month, New Delhi halted exports, including to Covax, in order to focus on domestic vaccinations.
SII currently produces 60-70 million AstraZeneca doses per month, with the aim of reaching 100 million by July.
India, with a population of 1.3 billion people, is fighting a deadly second wave of Covid-19, even as richer nations take steps toward normalcy by speeding up vaccination programmes.
After sending 495 oxygen concentrators, 200 ventilators, and three larger production units dubbed oxygen factories to India, Britain announced on Sunday that it would send an additional 1,000 oxygen ventilators.
SII, based in Pune, southeast of Mumbai, is a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility led by Adar Poonawalla, the 40-year-old scion of a pharmaceutical dynasty worth an estimated $11 billion.
Mr Poonawalla was chastised for flying to London just before Britain placed India on a no-fly list, as infection rates and deaths in India soared.
He told The Times in an interview published on Saturday that he had moved to Britain with his wife and children because he was being pressured by highly-placed Indians to give them vaccines first.
He said, “‘Threats’ is an understatement,” though he has since declared that he will return to India.
Is it a free trade agreement?
Mr Johnson’s government is pivoting its foreign policy goals towards the Asia-Pacific region, signing trade agreements with countries like Japan and Singapore, as part of a post-Brexit “Global Britain” strategy.
Lower trade barriers for some UK exports, such as fruit and medical equipment, have been announced as part of the new “Enhanced Trade Partnership” announcement with India.
However, as Modi promotes the “Made in India” and “Self-Reliant India” ideologies, there are indications that India may be hesitant to sign a more comprehensive trade agreement.
Last year, he unexpectedly declined to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement involving 15 Asia-Pacific countries, citing concerns that New Delhi’s agricultural, dairy, and service sectors will be harmed.
Despite his friendly links with Modi, former US president Donald Trump slammed India as the “tariff king” for its import tariffs, stalling trade talks.
India and the EU are set to start negotiations on a free-trade agreement later this month, eight years after 16 rounds of talks ended in a stalemate.
After a four-year break, trade talks with Canada are also expected to resume shortly.