Dr Anthony Fauci, a top infectious diseases expert in the United States, said on Thursday that India’s private sector will have a key role to play in developing a vaccine against the coronavirus, The Hindu reported. Fauci was speaking at a web conference organised by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“India’s manufacturing capabilities is going to be very important,” Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said. “We have made it clear that all tests on vaccines will have to meet regulatory standards and include all ethical review and strong data monitoring and safety boards.”

Fauci said two vaccines, by US companies Moderna and Pfizer, were in advanced stages of clinical trials.

“Moving forward, we and other [US National Institutes of Health] institutes will continue to work with Indian counterparts and colleagues, to assure that Indian scientists and Indian impressive research and development capacity are integrated in the global efforts to address the Covid-19 vaccine,” Fauci added, according to The Indian Express.

In India, human trials of the Covaxin vaccine began last week. Covaxin was the first indigenous vaccine to get permission for human trials by the Drug Controller General of India, on June 29. It has been jointly developed by Hyderabad-based private firm Bharat Biotech, ICMR and the National Institute of Virology. The firm hopes the vaccine can be rolled out for public use by the end of the year.

‘Human Challenge Trials not required’

Fauci also said that human challenge trials are neither required nor ethical at this stage. These trials involve intentionally infecting healthy, vaccinated volunteers with small amounts of the virus. This enables researchers to find out quickly if the test vaccine works.

“We recently convened an expert consultation on the issue and the conclusion was that such studies are not necessary at this time,” Fauci said. “The continuing high incidence of the disease is concerning but it makes randomised control trials quite feasible. We don’t have effective therapies to cure individuals infected. These factors have led us to conclude that human challenges are not essential nor ethically justified presently.”

On Friday, India registered a record 55,078 new cases of the coronavirus, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. With this, the country’s tally climbed up to 16,38,870. The toll also rose to 35,747 with 779 fresh fatalities.

Globally, over 1.72 crore people have been affected by the contagion, and more than 6.7 lakh have succumbed, according to the Johns Hopkins University. But over 1 crore people have recovered.