Data shows that vaccination is the most vital tool to arrest the spread of COVID-19. Among the approved vaccines in India, CovishieldTM and CovaxinTM have been in-use widely. But there have been a lot of questions about how long the immune response will last, whether this immunity will protect us against new and emerging variants, and the influence of other factors including our nutritional status (including any deficiencies) and the factors that determine our vulnerability to such infections.
To address some of the questions around efficacy and vulnerabilities to COVID-19 vaccination, HUL (Hindustan Unilever Ltd.) and UIPL (Unilever Industries Private Limited) R&D will provide CSR funding for a research project towards building a holistic multi-dimensional understanding of immune responses in SARS-CoV-2 in vaccinated people. This is a first-of-its-kind National level Multi-Center study on long-term protection and immunogenicity of vaccines, in combination with an understanding of nutritional and “skin immunity” status in the Indian population. It will help build the required knowledge base, as well as an enduring clinical and research platform to fight the next waves of COVID-19 as well as future pandemics.
This research is being enabled by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India’s programme to stimulate collaborations between industry and academia. It is being carried out by the platform VISION (Vaccine Immunology Studies – Indian Outbreak-response Network) which includes top public and private research institutes in Bangalore (National Centre for Biological Science (NCBS-TIFR), a Centre of Tata Institute for Fundamental Research; Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine, a DBT Institute) and Pune (Indian Institute for Science Education and Research, Pune (IISER-Pune), CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory), and Clinical Research Centres in Bangalore (Baptist Hospital and St John’s Research Institute), Vellore (Christian Medical College), and Pune (KEM Hospital and Research Centre and Symbiosis Hospital and Research Centre). HUL will also provide additional analytical and data analyses support through its R&D scientists to the consortium partners, as needed.
Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever Limited said, “Vaccine efficacy is one of the questions foremost on people’s minds today. Partnering with the best scientific minds of the country, and backed by world-class research, this study aims to understand not just vaccine immunogenicity but also to obtain deeper insights on whether factors like nutritional deficiencies or the skin’s natural immunity, has a role to play in immune response. We are confident that the findings will significantly aid public health policy decisions in India and help save lives.”
Dr K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor, Government of India, added, “Scientists across India are studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus, its variants, and vaccines to combat it continuously. Given India’s diverse and large population, collaborative research on the immune response to vaccination and its correlation to genetics and nutrition, can help our approach to public healthcare responses and shaping policies. I look forward to a beneficial outcome from this and similar efforts. This is exemplary of genuine partnerships between Industry and Academia to address a pressing problem by deploying the latest science and technology towards an immediate societal need.”