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India and the search for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines

Image shows Dr Rory Horner smiling

Dr Rory Horner joined us at The Open University in January 2021 to present: 'Between globalisation and nationalism: India and the search for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines'. Rory is a Senior Lecturer at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, UK. An economic geographer by training, his research focuses on globalization, trade and development, with a particular interest in South–South trade and the pharmaceutical industry. His field research has focused on India’s pharmaceutical industry, both in India and in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the search for appropriate treatments and vaccines has led to intense political debate and attention over the globalisation of the pharmaceutical industry. The organisation of the industry through global value chains and the various inter-dependencies and dependencies involved have generated considerable tensions and awareness of vulnerability regarding supply. This talk focuses on the ongoing role of India, especially, and China in the pharmaceutical industry’s response to COVID-19, drawing on a detailed analysis of key companies, drugs, vaccines and policy responses since early 2020. India plays a central role in the production of various treatments that have been explored for COVID-19, including hydroxychloroquine, Remdesevir and dexamethasone. Meanwhile, India’s vast vaccine manufacturing capacity role in the quest for COVID-19 vaccines is prominent through both contract manufacturing of vaccines developed elsewhere and in developing indigenous vaccines. Given India (and China’s) manufacturing capacities, their supply appears crucial for scaling up production and potentially providing access to treatments and vaccines to many people in low and middle-income countries. The talk highlights considerable tensions between globalisation and nationalism in the pharmaceutical industry, and discusses implications for potential restructuring of economic globalisation.

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