Vaccine maker the Serum Institute of India is set to invest in facilities in the United Kingdom and could even manufacture inoculations in the UK in future, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday.
Johnson’s Downing Street office said the 240 million Great British Pounds ($334 million) project would include a sales office, “clinical trials, research and development and possibly manufacturing of vaccines”.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) is the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume and has been at the forefront of producing the lower-cost AstraZeneca coronavirus shot.
SII has also begun phase one trials in the UK of a one-dose nasal vaccine for coronavirus.
Downing Street said the vaccine maker’s plans were part of a wider package of trade and investment deals with India worth $1 billion that it expects to create over 6,500 jobs.
It was announced ahead of virtual talks between Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
With its massive population and growing economy, India has been high on London’s list of trade deal targets since Britain left the European Union last year.
But a surge in Covid-19 cases has left the health system at breaking point, forcing Johnson to shelve a planned visit this month.
Before the current wave, India was exporting tens of millions of SII-made AstraZeneca shots via the Covax scheme supplying poorer countries.
Last month New Delhi froze exports — including to Covax — to prioritise jabs at home.
SII makes 60-70 million AstraZeneca doses per month, and is aiming for 100 million by July.
With a population of 1.3 billion, India is fighting a deadly second wave, even as richer countries take steps towards normality with accelerating vaccination programmes.
Britain said Sunday it was sending an extra 1,000 oxygen ventilators to India, having already sent 495 oxygen concentrators, 200 ventilators and three larger production units dubbed oxygen factories.