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PANACEA Biotec has bagged a $223.37-million (Rs 1,067 crore) contract from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) to supply its five-in-one vaccine for infants for three years.

   EasyFive is a combination of five vaccines that are used to immunise infants against five diseases — Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis-B and Hemophilus Influenza — through a single shot.

   Pentavalent vaccines are used by United Nations agencies such as Unicef to vaccinate millions of infants in the developing world. The 75 million doses of EasyFive will be used in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

   “This award is one of the growth drivers that would have a significant impact on our performance in the coming years,” said Rajesh Jain, joint managing director of Panacea Biotec.

   The company received a pre-qualification for EasyFive by the World Health Organization (WHO) in July last year. Sanofi-Aventis, Glaxosmithkline and Novartis are the other companies that have been pre-approved by WHO for supplying the pentavalent vaccine.

   Panacea Biotec, which focuses on biotechnology drugs, claims EasyFive is the world’s first fully-liquid pentavalent vaccine and had introduced the drug in India in January 2005.

   In a strategy to garner a firm foothold in immunisation programmes across the globe, Panacea Biotec has partnered Unicef and WHO in their effort to maximise coverage of vaccines.

  It had been reported earlier that Panacea Biotec was among three companies that had been approved by the Drug Controller General of India to get seed strains from the US-based Center for Disease Control and the UK-based National Institute for Biological Standards and Control to start preliminary research on developing a vaccine for swine flu, or the H1N1 virus.

   Two other companies, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute, have received similar approvals.

   Shares of Panacea Biotec advanced 5% to close at Rs 174 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

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