India’s Billionaire Poonawalla Family Betting Hundreds Of Millions On Unproven Coronavirus Vaccine

The whole world has been eagerly awaiting a vaccine that can put a decisive end to the pandemic that has seemed to ruin everything for years now. Many big companies are trying to be the first to solve the problem, and one of them is the Serum Institute of India, owned by the ultra-rich Poonawalla family. And Serum’s big $ 450 million vaccine bet was recently presented by the New York Times.

The bet in question is not just about investing a ton of money in a vaccine. It’s spending money to mass-produce a vaccine that might not prove to be effective, a strategy that was also adopted by none other than Bill Gates, who explained why he found it useful several months ago. . If a mass-produced vaccine does not go through the testing process, from a commercial standpoint, the money invested in production would be wasted, but if a company were to strike an effective vaccine, they have already put the time and money in mass production, they will have the precious drug in large quantities as soon as possible – which is exactly what the Serum Institute hopes to do.

india's billionaire poonawalla family betting hundreds of millions on unproven coronavirus vaccine

CDC / Getty Images

Adar Poonawalla is the managing director of The Serum Institute and the son of Cyrus Poonawalla, the patriarch who founded the company. He tells the New York Times that his company spent $ 450 million to mass-produce a vaccine developed by scientists at the University of Oxford. Serum is one of the only companies in the world capable of producing a vaccine on the scale needed for a global pandemic. If the vaccine proves effective, it is expected that around half will be distributed in India and the remainder in other (mostly poorer) countries, under an agreement between Serum and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. (who is working closely with Oxford on this vaccine). This agreement states that if the vaccine produced in the factories of the Serum Institute proves to be effective, it will produce 1 billion doses of it for India and “low and middle income countries” at cost price for the duration of the pandemic. , and then. he says he hopes he can sell it at a profit.

It may take some time, however, and in the meantime, Poonawalla is worried about cash flow and plans to look to other countries and entities for financial assistance in this project. But if his bet pays off, he also says he intends to do more than just sell it and / or give it to other people:

“It would be ridiculous if I spent all this money, committed to everything, and I didn’t take it myself.”

Poonawalla sees an opportunity in the coronavirus vaccine for more than mere profit, and even more than mere goodwill to help humanity defeat COVID-19. He also hopes that a successful vaccine production business will help change his family’s image, which is largely based on their lavish lifestyle across India, their expensive collection of sports cars (and at least a Batmobile) and private jets. Poonawalla, the story goes, sees that public image change if his business plays such a crucial role in tackling this pandemic.

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