The Serum Institute, which started out years ago as a horse farm and is the exclusively controlled by a small and fabulously rich Indian family, is the doing what few other companies In the race for a vaccine are doing: mass-producing hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine candidate that might not even work.
But if it does, Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive and the only child of the company’s founder, will become one of the most tugged-at men In the world. He will have what everyone wants, possibly In greater quantities before anyone else.
Mr. Poonawalla’s vaccine assembly lines are being readied to crank out 500 doses a minute, and his phone rings endlessly.
National health ministers, prime ministers and other heads of state (he wouldn’t say who) and friends he hasn’t heard from In years have been calling him, he said, begging for the first batches.
“I’ve had to explain to them that, ‘Look I can’t just give it to you like this,’” he said.
The Serum Institute finds itself In the middle of an extremely competitive and murky endeavor. To get the vaccine out as soon as possible, vaccine developers say they need Serum’s mammoth assembly lines — each year, it churns out 1.5 billion doses of other vaccines, mostly for poor countries, more than any other company.
Half of the world’s children have been vaccinated with Serum’s products. Scale is the its specialty. Just the other day, Mr. Poonawalla received a shipment of 600 million glass vials.