Serum Institute of India (SII): A leading name in Immunology

Created on 02 Jan 2021

Wraps up in 6 Min

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Updated on 11 Sep 2022

The year 2020 indeed will remain in the pages of history forever!! 
Standing today at the exit door of 2020, all we can think of is Covid-19. Such an unexpected year, who would have thought that this year could lock us all in, cancel all our plans and more frighteningly, will bring the end of so many lives. The pandemic of Covid-19 affected all our lives massively. In addition to the tremendous loss of lives, the pandemic paused the professional and personal lives of millions.

When the entire world was all locked up, one of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers, Serum Institute of India (SII), found a key to unlock. While the world was caught amidst the strengthening wave of the pandemic in the second quarter of 2020, SII announced to have discovered the vaccine for the Covid-19 virus. This announcement of SII's vaccine, 'Covishield', came as a ray of hope for humankind in the darkest of times.

Emergence of Covid-19

This catastrophe began from Wuhan, Hubei, China and after that captured the entire globe. It was 30th January 2020, when India reported its first covid case and stands today with one crore plus covid cases and one lakh plus deaths. The figure will get worse if nothing is done timely.  

The sudden outburst of Coronavirus affected the country of 1.38 billion people a big time. Recent mutations in the virus have created an alarming situation for all the citizens of the country. 

After the widespread impact of covid-19, vaccines became an emergency. And in the time of need, several biotech houses from around the globe came to rescue with their vaccines like Pfizer, Oxford, Moderna. Amongst these giants, there was also an Indian group who successfully became a saviour to humankind, i.e. Serum Institute of India. 

Serum Institute of India (SII): Saviour of humankind

Incorporation of Serum Institute

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla and his brother incorporated the Serum Institute of India in 1966 to manufacture low-cost vaccines for Indian markets and gradually became the global leaders. 

Serum Institute of India (SII) a Pune-based private company is a global leader in vaccine manufacturing by far has sold more than 1.5 billion doses of vaccines for several diseases like polio, tetanus, measles and hepatitis. SII's vaccines are now being consumed in approx. 170 countries and about 65% of the children in the world receive at least one vaccine manufactured by them. From Tetanus Toxoid to Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), SII has now become a trusted name.   

Moat of Serum Institute of India

The unique selling point (USP) or the moat for SII is high on volume and low on cost. This unique feature took SII a long way. SII's main goal was to target the developing countries whose citizens and governments can only bear a vaccine with sustainable pricing. 

Financials of SII

Of course, the annual figures of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers, SII, speak a lot about its reach and volume. For the year ending 31st march 2019, SII's operating revenue was over INR 500 cr. SII also revealed an overall increase in Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) and Networth of 23.91% and 16.10% respectively. 

SII has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.01, which implies that it is majorly an equity funded company with a total paid-up capital of INR 4.82 crores. 

Since the debt-to-equity ratio is as low as 0.01, a high Return On Equity of 14.28% was pretty much obvious. With rising volumes and capacity of SII, the total assets of the company rose by 17.16%.


SII: A ray of hope

In the vaccine race of 2020, where 95% of the vaccines failed after dose one and 100% after two, SII came out as a ray of hope.

According to WHO (World Health Organization) as on 30th September 2020, 192 vaccine manufacturing candidates globally were at different stages of development, out of which 151 were in the pre-clinical evaluation and 41 in different phases of clinical evaluation. Out of the latter group, three were from Indian industry.

SII, who already are the leaders in vaccine manufacturing and immunization,  

SII, in collaboration with Oxford and AstraZeneca, is all set for the launch of "Covishield" a covid-19 vaccine. Already approved by the UK government for emergency use, SII is now just waiting for the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) approval. It is expected that once SII gets approval, It will roll out the much-awaited covid vaccine 'Covishield' by January 2021.


Apart from Serum, Pfizer India and Bharat Biotech have also applied to the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) for emergency approval. But the in price parameters Pfizer's vaccine is expected to be priced around $19.5 (Rs. 1440) per dose, based on the pricing in the US, which is way higher than Covishield. 

Whereas, Bharat Biotech's indigenous vaccine will be somewhere around $3-6 (Rs. 225-500).

As per the high quality-low price policy of SII, Covishield will be priced sustainably at Rs 500-600 for the general public availing from private markets and at Rs 225-300 for the government. SII further expects a fall in prices due to economies of scale, to be procured by the government.

In addition to reasonable pricing, Covishield can be stored and transported at a temperature of 2 to 8-degree Celsius, i.e. at standard fridge temperature, as against Pfizer vaccine which requires minus 70 degree Celsius.

However, SII had quite a rough patch just before approval; a trial participant accused SII of their vaccine "Covishield" bearing adverse reactions. But SII firmly established that the reaction was not related to the vaccine, and the vaccine is "safe" and "immunogenic". 

"You'll be hearing some good news from the UK very soon... It would be a 90-95% effective vaccine if you just keep a two-to-three-month gap between dose 1 and dose 2. They will make that public with documentation." CEO Adar Poonawalla declares.

Also, in another participant, the vaccine revealed an efficiency of 70.4 per cent and is expected to go up to 90 per cent after the second dose. 

Covishield: A shield to India

SII, being the largest manufacturer of vaccines, has in stock 40 to 50 million doses ready to dispatch and will scale up the production to 100 million per month by March.

"The company is ramping up capacity every week," says the CEO.

CEO Adar Poonawalla further assures that India will receive the majority of the first 50 million vaccines. CEO also promises that SII will be producing 300 million doses by July 2021.

SII CEO has clarified that It will take around two-three years to vaccinate the entire population of the world and further added that they had to defer the progress of some other vaccines considering the pandemic. 

In-house manufacturing of vaccines for India was quite necessary because It might be one of the highest consumers of the covid vaccine.


India is a densely populated country, a highly contagious disease like covid, that has already taken the shape of a pandemic, is capable of taking down with itself the entire country.

Since the inception of the pandemic, the Indian government has taken several measures to mitigate this risk via lockdown, public awareness, and financial assistance. However, this could not be taken on for very long. With the falling economy and increasing difficulties for people, this vaccination drive can thus drive India a long way.

The vaccination drive will unlock all the activities that pandemic has restricted like sporting events, public transportation, air travel, working conditions and all other conveniences. 

Since India is already equipped with ample manpower, the manufacturing capabilities of SII can be scaled up to several million and billions, which will ultimately save billions of lives and cause GDP & exports to rise and strengthen foreign relations.

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Shristi Jain

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Shristi is the Yuvraj Singh of the Finology team. There is absolutely nothing that she cannot do. From beating the bests in table tennis to starting random Twitter spaces for product teams, she has got everyone's back! While she is a great mother to Finology Ticker, she also likes to write sometimes. As a side job, she likes to roast people. 

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