Health and Healthcare

How to make vaccines more sustainable, from a producer that churned out 1.5 billion doses during the pandemic

1.5 million children under five die from vaccine-preventable diseases annually.

1.5 million children under five die from vaccine-preventable diseases annually. Image: Unsplash/Mat Napo

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Vaccines must be more accessible, affordable and sustainable, says Biozeen CEO Dr Vibin Joseph.
  • The company has a presence in 23 countries and a vision to produce vaccines locally.
  • Dr Joseph is a member of The Forum of Young Global Leaders, a World Economic Forum initiative with more than 600 members in 90 countries.

Vaccines need to be more affordable, accessible and sustainable to save more lives.

This is the core mission of Biozeen, the software and hardware of which helped produce more than 1.5 billion vaccine doses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, based in Karnataka in south India, has a presence in 23 countries and says at least one in three children has been immunized with vaccines produced using its systems.

Vaccine access problem

For Biozeen co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dr Vibin Joseph, hearing about preventable child deaths in Africa while he was studying at university helped spark his determination to make vaccines more available.

“Ten years ago, we had places in the world where children were not even named until they turned five,” says Dr Joseph. “And it was sad. But the reason for that is because parents were quite worried about preventable diseases and not knowing how long their child would live.”

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Every year, 1.5 million children under five die from vaccine-preventable diseases because of unequal access to vaccines, according to UNICEF, the United Nations’ Children's Fund.

A big part of the problem is that vaccine production and knowledge is limited to a few companies. Making vaccines is also expensive – partly because of regulatory costs – and risky, Dr Joseph explains.

Map illustrating the disparity in child mortality.
Child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is 16 times higher than that of high-income countries. Image: Unicef

Widening vaccine access

Biozeen’s solution involves providing competitively-priced equipment, software, process improvements, regulatory services and industry training across the entire drug manufacturing life-cycle.

“By training the people in the best practices, you will ensure that you reduce wastages, you improve productivity, and hopefully you do a lot more things from an economic perspective to make vaccines a lot more accessible,” Dr Joseph says. “You can also make the cost of hardware and software more competitive and make a compelling economic business case for people to invest in vaccines.”

Biozeen has helped manufacturers reduce prices and cost by about 25% to 30% with some applications, according to Dr Joseph. More efficient systems are also making vaccine manufacturing more sustainable, helping vaccine companies reduce their carbon footprint and boost their productivity.

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Sustainable vaccines produced locally

The key to making vaccines more sustainable – and more widely available – is to produce them locally.

Dr Joseph explains: “If you have vaccines that are produced locally, like food, in most places around the world, then we will have a ready supply chain, rather than actually depending on a few countries and a few companies that are producing vaccines.”

To accelerate this vision, he is exploring a “build-operate-transfer” model – a type of project delivery method usually used for large-scale infrastructure projects.

“The focus really is to have a lot of smaller vaccine plants churning out vaccines that are fully automated and regulatory approved, based on the need of the local population.”

On vaccine scepticism, Dr Joseph says everyone has a choice, but warns the world is “sitting on a time bomb”, because overuse of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections is reducing the diversity of microorganisms in our bodies that are essential for health.

“The rampant use of antibiotics is literally ravaging entire microbial colonies,” he adds.

Trained as an engineer and biologist, Dr Joseph is a Young Global Leader in The Forum of Young Global Leaders, a World Economic Forum initiative that helps to grow responsible leaders and has more than 600 members in 90 countries.

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