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Assam vaccine tech for Bengal

Jorhat, Nov. 30: The Centre has asked Assam Agricultural University to provide its technology to produce swine flu vaccine to West Bengal in the greater interest of pig farmers of the country.

Assam Agricultural University vice-chancellor K.M. Bujarbaruah told The Telegraph today that although they were planning to give away the technology, they would do so only on the condition that Bengal gave the vaccine for free to Assam once its production started.

He said the swine flu virus, the key requirement to produce the vaccine, had been developed in the laboratory by Dilip Sharma, a scientist of the AAU-affiliated Veterinary Science College at Khanapara, Guwahati, about two years ago. But the Assam government was yet to set up a vaccine-producing unit and since there were no private parties interested, the virus might be provided to Bengal to produce the vaccine.

The vice-chancellor said that the Union ministry of animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries had got in touch with him about three months back and asked them to provide the technology to West Bengal as they had the production facility. “We had initially sought a certain amount in lieu of the technology or royalty if West Bengal made a profit. But the government there does not seem to be in position to do so. So we have sought financial aid from the Centre to enhance our research facilities,” Bujarbaruah said.

“Sharma, who was given a project to work on the P-15 cell line production of the vaccine under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, discovered the way to produce the seed virus culture on a large scale, which was necessary for the vaccine to be produced on a commercial basis. The seed virus culture is the key which we have and are prepared to give away,” Bujarbaruah said.

The university will, however go ahead with production through the private-public-partnership mode and a deal with a firm was being finalised, but the production could only start after one-and-half years. “We would like to have a vaccine production unit for the region as this wou-ld be part of our preparedness for the Centre’s Look East policy. The vaccine could be then exported to neighbouring cou-ntries like Nepal and Burma,” the vice-chancellor said.

Swine flu is a deadly disease, which kills millions of pigs annually and the only control measure for the disease was a lepinised vaccine. But this required a large number of rabbits for its production and thus, its production was limited. Even after this it was found that a single dose might not carry the requisite amount of viruses to make it effective.

The lepinised vaccine costs about Rs 25 per dose and the amount produced in India can cater to about one per cent of a 15-million pig population. However, the cell culture vaccine would cost Rs 18 and if produced in three or four units at five million per unit annually, it could cater to the entire population. About 20 million doses are required annually at one-and-half dose per pig. The region has a 35-lakh pig population with Assam accounting for 15 lakh.


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