Serum Institute of India poses challenge to Merck HPV vaccine

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SINGAPORE--The Serum Institute of India, the world's fifth largest vaccinemaker by volume, is eyeing newer vaccines, including one for the human papillomavirus expected to be launched by late 2018 and sell at a third of the price of Merck's ($MRK) blockbuster Gardasil, Bloomberg reported.

Also in development are vaccines for types of severe diarrhea and pneumonia that could challenge products such as Pfizer's ($PFE) Prevenar.

The Serum Institute of India primarily provides the World Health Organization with prequalified vaccines for global vaccination campaigns, mainly in developing countries where the HPV vaccine will initially be launched, with later approval for the product in Europe, Suresh Jadhav, executive director of the Indian company, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Gardasil is the world's second-best-selling vaccine.

Serum says it will initially run clinical trials in India and Africa for its alternative to Gardasil, with Phase I to start this year. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) also has an HPV vaccine called Cervarix, which protects against two strains.

Gardasil costs the U.S. Centers for Disease Control $113.54 per dose. UNICEF's website shows it has a contract to buy Gardasil from Merck at $4.50 a dose this year, Bloomberg said.

While Serum hasn't yet agreed to a price, "it will be extremely affordable so that even the poorest of the poor countries can introduce it in their programs," Jadhav said. "We are looking at at least about one-third the price that it is currently being procured at by the UN agency."

- here's the Bloomberg article

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