MUMBAI (TIP): A group of researchers from Pune University and Serum Institute have received a patent on the use of Ashwagandha as a vaccine adjuvant, or component that helps improve its efficacy. A medicinal herb, Ashwagandha is also referred to as Indian Gensing. In a project supported by the Department of Science and Technology, the research was part of a project to develop “botanical immunomodulators” as adjuvants to improve vaccine efficacy, said a researcher from Serum.

In the past, the industry used aluminium salts as an adjuvant, but as newer vaccines are developed, industry is also looking for alternatives, he added. In fact, the finding would be used in new vaccines such as the pentavalent vaccine targeting meningitis, or those against dengue and pneumococcal diseases, said Serum Executive Director Suresh Jadhav. About nine herbs were studied, before research found the required property in ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and more work was done to understand in what ratio it could be used in a vaccine, a researcher said. Unlike earlier instances where companies tried to patent turmeric, for example, the researcher clarified, the patent here was in an area not claimed by ayurveda.

Further, he said, that all known claims on herbs have been digitised and a patent would not have been granted in the US, if the latest claim was similar to existing knowledge in India or China. The adjuvant showed properties where it could be used with other licensed adjuvants in T-cell dependent antigens such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertusssis group of vaccines.

The project was supported by DST and Serum Institute of India with total financial outlay of Rs 90 lakh spread over 3 years. The research project was completed in 2007, but development work continued at Serum Institute. Patents were filed in India and in the US. The researchers receive their patent in India in 2007, but the US patent was granted on August 6.

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