Bangladesh's Beximco Pharmaceuticals is investing in the Serum Institute of India (SII) to ensure Dhaka gets priority access to COVID-19 vaccines being developed by the Indian drug manufacturer, the company said on Friday.
The deal announced by the Bangladeshi generic drugmaker comes after Dhaka said this month it was ready to hold trials of candidate vaccines being developed by India as both countries seek to curb the spread of the virus.
SII has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to produce more than a billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for global supply.
"The investment amount will be treated as an advance and once the vaccine receives regulatory approvals, SII will include Bangladesh among the countries who will be the first to receive an agreed quantity of this vaccine from SII on a priority basis," Beximco said in a statement.
It did not give details about the size of the investment in SII nor how many vaccines Beximco might receive.
"This landmark agreement reflects the deep-rooted desire for collaboration between the two countries and as representatives of the two nations, between us we can go a long way towards helping to mitigate the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," the heads of both companies said in the statement.
It said Beximco would be the exclusive supplier in Bangladesh for the vaccine being developed by SII and that the Bangladeshi company would discuss with the government the number of doses it wants. Beximco will also secure additional doses to be distributed to the private pay market in Bangladesh.
The Serum Institute is the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume. It is holding trials for three potential coronavirus vaccines, including one licensed to AstraZeneca by Oxford University.
Bangladesh has also approved a late-stage trial of a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd in the hope of being a priority recipient for the jab.
Bangladesh confirmed 47 more deaths and reported 2,211 new cases on Friday, taking the total number of cases in the country to 306,794 with 4,174 deaths.
India reported a record daily jump of 77,266 coronavirus infections on Friday, taking its total number of cases to 3.39 million with 61,529 deaths.