India's Biological E. to make Providence Therapeutics' mRNA COVID-19 vaccine

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FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a medical syringe and a small bottle labelled "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine

BENGALURU (Reuters) - India's Biological E. said on Tuesday it has entered into a licensing agreement with Providence Therapeutics Holdings to manufacture the Canadian company's mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in India.

Biological E., which also has a separate deal to produce about 600 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 shot annually, will run a clinical trial of Providence's vaccine in India and seek emergency use approval for it, the company said in a statement.

Providence will sell up to 30 million doses of its mRNA vaccine, PTX-COVID19-B, to Biological E., and will also provide the necessary technology transfer of the shot, with a minimum production capacity of 600 million doses in 2022 and a target capacity of 1 billion doses.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

India has been struggling with a devastating second wave of the pandemic and has managed to fully vaccinate only about 3% of its population. On Monday, the Serum Institute of India said it will increase production of AstraZeneca's shot by nearly 40% in June, a step towards bridging the shortfall in the country.

"The mRNA platform has emerged as the front runner in delivering the first vaccines for emergency use to combat the COVID-19 pandemic," said Mahima Datla, Biological E.'s managing director.

Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines prompt the body to make a protein that is part of the virus, triggering an immune response. U.S. companies Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology in their COVID-19 shots.

India's drug regulator has approved clinical trials of another mRNA vaccine developed by local firm Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, and the government has said it will fund the studies.

(Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)