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CEO Of India's mRNA Pioneer Gennova On Cancer Vaccines, VC Interest

Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine In The Works

Executive Summary

Founder CEO Sanjay Singh tells Scrip about Gennova Biopharma's preliminary talks with investors looking to grab a piece of the action post approval of its mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. As the company considers use of the technology in making vaccines against cancer and infectious diseases, it will also expand manufacturing

“In science, nobody can say no to any possibility,” says Sanjay Singh, founder CEO of Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd during an interview with Scrip. It’s perhaps this belief that led him and his team to develop India’s first, and the world’s third mRNA vaccine.

Before he set up Gennova in 2006, Singh’s drive to develop treatments for diseases like malaria and his tenure at the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology led to a stint at The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US. Apart from heading the antigen research section at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for a few years, he helped progress four recombinant vaccine candidates to Phase I clinical trials.

Armed with a PhD in biochemistry and global research experience, he focused on establishing innovative biomanufacturing technologies at Gennova, which led to commercialization of seven biotherapeutics in the cardiovascular, neurology, nephrology and oncology segments.

Sanjay Singh, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Founder CEO Gennova Biopharma Founder CEO, Sanjay Singh

Singh counts the launch of biosimilar tenecteplase - at about one-third the price of innovator Roche Holding AG’s drug in India - as a significant moment, one that has helped save millions of lives.

The company secured a patent for a novel process to develop the drug against myocardial infarction in multiple countries, including in the US. An additional patent for a new indication - acute ischemic stroke - for TNK-tPA was also granted in 38 countries including India, US and some European countries.

During this interview, he speaks on a host of topics, including funding prospects as the company seeks to expand manufacturing capacity.

As Gennova begins trials of an Omicron-targeted version of its vaccine in India, Omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine candidates from Moderna, Inc. and Pfizer Inc./BioNTech SE have been found to be less effective against the increasingly dominant BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants versus BA.1.

It’s too early to say how Gemcovac-19, which unlike Comirnaty (tozinameran) and Spikevax (elasomeran) is self-amplifying, will fare against these sub-types, but as interest in mRNA technology grows, the Emcure Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd. subsidiary is receiving offers for acquisition of an equity stake.

If the $3.2bn acquisition of Translate Bio by Sanofi and the $780m one of Exelead by Merck KGaA are any indication, Gennova might have a pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow, in which case the man who started it all with a visit to mRNA vaccine partner HDT Bio Corp. would be over the moon.

Time Stamps


00:08 Introduction

01:12 National Institutes of Health experience

03:05 Founding Gennova, patent on thrombolytic

04:43 mRNA technology, vaccines against dengue, HPV and more

05:59 Personalized cancer vaccines

07:13 Moderna, Pfizer, Sanofi-GSK vaccines vs Omicron variant

09:09 Deploying Gemocovac-19

10:35 WHO prequalification discussions

11:07 Talks with venture capital funds/other companies

12:06 Hiking vaccine manufacturing

12:45 Regulatory support

15:02 Pan-coronavirus vaccine in works

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