Indian pharma producers show great interest in Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V: Russian sovereign wealth fund

The Economic Times, 15.08.2020

Russia has seen great interest from Indian pharmaceutical producers in the Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V and is in talks with them for potential production of the vaccine in India, said Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia's sovereign wealth fund.

The RDIF has funded research and production of Sputnik V, the world’s first approved coronavirus vaccine, developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

“We have seen great interest from Indian pharmaceutical producers in the Russian vaccine and are now in talks with them about potential cooperation and production of Sputnik V in India,” Dmitriev told ET from Moscow in an exclusive interview.

“Historically, India has been a strategic partner for Russia across many sectors. The RDIF has been collaborating with Indian companies and organisations since 2012, developing joint investment projects aimed at supporting the national economies and fostering the economic ties between the two countries,” he said.

Along with international partners, Russia plans to manufacture more than 500 million doses of vaccine per year in five countries, said the RDIF CEO. “In addition to India, we are also in talks with Korea and Brazil regarding the vaccine production. Russia is ready to offer its vaccine to any country that would be interested in buying it,” he said.

Dmitriev’s comments came even as Sputnik V, named after the 1957 Soviet Union satellite, sparked scepticism when it was launched on Tuesday because it has yet to complete its phase-3 trial. He said Russia has received preliminary requests for more than one billion doses of the vaccine from 20 countries in South America, West Asia and Asia.

The registration of Sputnik V was a milestone in global efforts to protect people against coronavirus, said Dmitriev. “This vaccine is based on adenoviral vectors. This is an existing, proven and safe technology developed since the 1980s,” he said. “Nowadays, this is the safest mechanism for introducing the genetic code of a virus spike into the human body, and it has been thoroughly studied not only in Russia but also internationally. Notably, experts of the Gamaleya Institute successfully used ..

Dmitriev said the efficacy and safety of vaccines based on adenoviral vectors has been validated through years of testing and the Ebola vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute has also received an international patent. Therefore, Sputnik V is based on a proven and successful platform, he said.

The RDIF has been supporting and investing in critical Covid-19-related projects such as the development of rapid testing systems, the production of antiviral drug Avifavir and the development of vaccine since the early days of the pandemic, relying on cooperation of Russian and foreign partners, said Dmitriev. “We believe this international cooperation, rather than competition, is critical for the success of the fight against the coronavirus,” he said.

The fund is backing the production of Sputnik V via its portfolio companies Alium and R-Pharm, which will start mass production of the vaccine in September.

Phase-1 and phase-2 clinical studies of the vaccine demonstrated that 100% of volunteers developed immunity within 21 days, which was doubled after the second injection, according to the Gamaleya Institute. None of the volunteers experienced serious side effects, it said. Phase-3 trials will take place in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Brazil and the UAE.