Adar Poonawalla

WGL 2021-Adar Poonwalla
Dhiraj Singh—Bloomberg/Getty Images
  • Title
  • Affiliation
    Serum Institute of India

Poonawalla, head of the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has been tasked with no less than bringing an end to the global pandemic. The SII has pledged to deliver up to 2 billion vaccine doses in the coming years to COVAX, a global initiative to provide vaccine to lower- and middle-income countries—and it has already provided more doses to that initiative than any other vaccine maker. The SII is producing two vaccines. The first, Covishield, is one of only a few vaccines approved by the World Health Organization and is based on the COVID vaccine AstraZeneca developed. SII’s other vaccine, called Covavax, is being produced in partnership with American firm Novavax, and may provide a 1.1 billion–dose boon to global vaccine stocks starting later this year once it clears clinical trials. Poonawalla has hit some speed bumps in following through with his company’s global promises. A deadly surge in COVID-19 infections in India this spring forced Poonawalla to refocus distribution efforts at home. But in April, the CEO secured a $400 million investment from India’s government that he says will help the company produce an additional 30 million to 40 million Covishield doses per month and help India address its COVID-19 crisis. Poonawalla says that SII will resume exports once that happens, and countries around the world have reason to take him at his word: Before India’s current crisis Poonawalla demonstrated an unmatched commitment to global vaccine equity, providing low-cost vaccines to fight diseases like influenza, measles, and tetanus.