Chandigarh: Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), Chandigarh, scientists has for the first time in India developed indigenous technology to produce protein-based medicines like insulin, streptokinase (clot buster) and the hepatitis B vaccine. They are expecting that this will bring down the cost of these medicines by three to four times.
India is largely dependent on imported and patented technology (expression vector) for production of insulin, streptokinase and hepatitis B vaccine etc. The importance of IMTECH’s work can be gauged from the fact that India is number two in the world after China in both diabetes and hepatitis B patients — numbering around 66 million diabetics and 40 million hepatitis B patients.
Expression vectors are the backbone of DNA which help a gene to be expressed as protein. The most common and available expression vector is Pichia, which is imported. “Because Pichia is patented, Indian biotech companies have to pay the inventor, which adds to the cost of the vaccine. Thus, we felt the need to develop new expression systems,” said Dr
Jagmohan Singh, chief scientist at IMTECH whose team developed India’s first expression vector for therapeutic proteins.
The present cost of hepatitis B vaccine ranges between Rs 45 (Serum Institute) and Rs 250 per paediatric dose of 10 microgram in 0.5ml. The cost of adult dose of 20 microgram is nearly double. For insulin, the price varies from Rs 140 to Rs 325 per injection. The slow release variant of insulin called Glargine costs between Rs 410 and Rs 1,475 for a 10ml vial.
The new system, commonly known as fission yeast, has great potential to produce vaccines like hepatitis B surface antigen vaccine (HBS) and other therapeutic proteins at a lower cost.