Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla is an industrialist and philanthropist. He is the Chairman and Managing Director of the Poonawalla group, which consists of the renowned Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines by the number of doses produced. He is an industry stalwart who created a business model that made life-saving vaccines affordable to the poor.
With a net worth of over $6.2 billion, Dr. Poonawalla is listed by Forbes as the 10th richest person in India. Poonawalla began his career in the horse racing and breeding business started by his father. Serum Institute of India was started with an aim to diversify the business and tap into an emerging market. The company initially developed vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and scarlet fever using horse serum. This allowed the company to churn out vaccines on a large scale. After the initial foray into the vaccine market in the 1960s, the subsequent growth was a result of keeping the prices of the vaccines low, so as to achieve a greater share of the market.
Serum Institute had their major breakthrough in the 1980s when it received accreditation for supplying vaccines for the agencies of the United Nations. What followed was nothing short of a meteoric rise for the company that saw it selling more vaccines than any of the largest pharmaceutical corporations.
Today, the company exports vital vaccines like polio and measles to over 140 countries. At least 65% of all children vaccinated across the world have been administered a dose produced by the Serum Institute of India. The company’s portfolio includes vaccines for Meningococcal A, H1N1 Influenza, Rotavirus, Ebola, and many more.
Meanwhile, Dr. Poonawalla’s other endeavor, the one involving horse breeding and racing has been spectacularly successful. His stud farm is the largest one in India and his horses have won over 341 Classics that include 9 Indian Derbies.
Dr, Cyrus Poonawalla has been awarded the PadmaShri for his contribution to medicine and the Lifetime Achievement Award. Additionally, he was awarded the Sabin Humanitarian Award and the Sabin Corporate Philanthropy Award and is the first Indian to receive the award for “Excellence in Inter-American Public Health” by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF).