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Hilleman Laboratories - Developing Affordable Vaccines For Reduced Disease Burden

Hilleman Labs is working with the world's leading scientists, public & private sector partners, procurement and funding organizations to develop affordable vaccines.

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Seven million children, under the age of 5, die each year as a result of infectious diseases. 90% of these children live in developing countries around the world. Hilleman Laboratories is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. Hilleman Labs acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic reserach and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Hilleman Labs is working with the world's leading scientists, public & private sector partners, procurement and funding organizations to develop affordable vaccines. Founded by Merck & Co. and Wellcome Trust in 2009, Hilleman Labs is the only center of its kind in South Asia, strategically located in India to forge partnerships and strengthen public health in the developing world.

In an interaction with Sujata Sangwan of BWDisrupt, Dr. Davinder Gill, CEO, Hilleman Laboratories, shares the company’s initiatives in India and across the globe.

1. Tell us about Hilleman Laboratories. Also, elaborate on your journey so far at the organisation.

Hilleman Laboratories, a joint venture between MSD and Wellcome Trust, is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. The organization acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic research and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Hilleman Labs is working with the world's leading scientists, public & private sector partners, procurement and funding organizations to develop affordable vaccines. Hilleman Labs is the only centre of its kind in South Asia, strategically located in India to forge partnerships and strengthen public health in the developing world.

I joined Hilleman Labs in 2012 after an extensive career abroad in Pharma and Biotech. I am extremely pleased to have made the decision of returning to India and working on public health issues. So far, my journey has been highly rewarding thanks to an outstanding team as well as my stakeholders whose support and hard work has been crucial all along. I am excited about the future and convinced that we would be able to make a positive impact on global health by developing affordable vaccines.

I took charge at Hilleman Laboratories as CEO over four and a half years ago. It has been a tremendous journey so far. Numerous barriers hamper access to live-saving vaccines for millions of people living in the developing world.

Our expertise in medical research is targeted toward creating new vaccines in areas of unmet need as well as adapting existing vaccines for more effective delivery in low income nations.

Hilleman Laboratories will invest the majority of its resources in the research and clinical assessment of vaccines against strains of diseases prevalent in the developing world, (which bears 90% of the global burden of disease) Additionally, we will forge partnerships with governments, policy makers, multilateral and international organizations, public-private sector, research and technical institutes, NGOs, philanthropic organizations and other like-minded institutions. Hilleman Laboratories seeks to collaborate, exchange ideas and build a meaningful dialogue and advocacy platform for vaccine discovery to ultimately strengthen public health systems and immunization programs in developing countries over the long-term.

2. What kind of technology is used for the research and development of vaccines? How is this technology different from the one that is adopted by other players in the industry?

Hilleman Laboratories aims to create a novel immunization platform by employing modern technologies focusing on:

Ø Thermostability,
Ø Ease-of-administration,
Ø Reduced footprint and
Ø Affordability

Hilleman labs is a product specific vaccine R&D organization and has expertise in application of an attractive array of technologies for development of vaccines for low resource countries. These technologies span from engineering new vaccine strains

through vaccine production, purification and formulation process development as well as designing novel delivery systems. Hilleman also brings in cutting edge technologies to bear upon particular vaccine development problem via collaborations and technology assimilation.

The technologies developed by Hilleman labs offer better process efficiency, higher consistency, better vaccine stability, sustainable supply as well as product differentiation. Although novel, Hilleman developed technologies are usually aligned or readily adaptable by industrial partners ensuring seamless and rapid commercial exploitation and wide-spread dissemination of affordable vaccines.

3. As the CEO of the company, what business goals do you envision for Hilleman in the next two years?

One is to enter into partnerships to allow further development and commercialization of vaccines in our pipeline. The second is to continue to grow that pipeline through attractive product candidates that meet significant unmet need in the developing world. An additional goal to mentor and develop the outstanding team I have so that we can continue to deliver our vision and mission.

4. What are the challenges that you have faced in your role as the CEO of the organisation? How did you overcome them?


One of the biggest challenges has been to balance the need for innovation against affordability. This is a constant battle, one that requires careful thought and planning which is what Hilleman Labs does meticulously on a continuous basis. Another challenge has been executing with speed but without sacrificing quality. The vaccine products we are working on affect millions of lives globally. Therefore, every day of delay means that many more lives affected. However, because vaccines are such complex biological products, the need for quality and assurance is paramount. We pay special attention to this and make sure we do not compromise on product quality in any way whatsoever.

5. Please tell us more about the vision of Hilleman Laboratories. How is your vision in line with that of the organisation?

"Delivering vaccines for global health" is the vision of Hilleman Laboratories’. The company is committed to developing high impact, affordable vaccines for people in developing countries in an innovative and sustainable manner. Seven million children, under the age of 5, die each year as a result of infectious diseases. 90% of these children live in developing countries around the world. Hilleman Laboratories is focussed on preventing child and infant deaths in developing countries caused due to infectious diseases”

At a personal level, I am fully aligned with this vision as it is also my personal goal to contribute towards public health globally using technology innovation.

6. Recently Hilleman Laboratories initiated the clinical trials of its heat stable rotavirus vaccine and oral cholera vaccine. What does this mean for Hilleman as an organisation and for you as the CEO of the company?

Both Rotavirus and Cholera are expected to reduce child mortality by decreasing the incidence of severe diarrhoea and the frequency of death from this disease. We have developed heat stable Rotavirus vaccine which can sustain high temperatures for a longer period of time, thereby, doing away with the issue of cold chain. The development of such vaccines has set the organisation apart and fills an important gap as there are no such vaccines available in the market. As CEO, I feel proud that we have successfully transitioned from the research to the development phase thanks to the extraordinary handwork and dedication of the Hilleman team. I look forward to making further progress and bringing these vaccines to the finish line.

This gives us inspiration and also sets up expectation that we will continue to engage in innovative and impactful work in future.

7. What is next in the pipeline?

As I mentioned, we constantly review our pipeline needs and explore attractive collaborations where we can jointly advance important vaccines. At the moment we are very active in vaccines for Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases such as Rotavirus, Cholera and ETEC, and are exploring additional opportunities. And we remain interested in additional life-saving vaccines as exemplified by our work in Invasive Meningococcal Disease.

8. Are you looking at any commercial investments?


I cannot comment on that at this time except to say that we remain committed to the development of affordable vaccines for global health at the fullest extent.


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