AstraZeneca, Russia's Gamaleya Institute Sign Preliminary Agreement on Combined Vaссine

Dow Jones, 21.12.2020

MOSCOW--AstraZeneca PLC has signed a memorandum of cooperation with Russia's state-run Gamaleya Institute as the drug developers are looking to test whether a combination of their Covid-19 vaccines can boost effectiveness in fighting the pandemic.

The two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed jointly with the University of Oxford, would use one of Gamaleya's Sputnik V's two components in a clinical trial, the developers announced in an agreement earlier this month.

"Such cooperation can have a powerful effect, synergy both for increasing the efficiency and reliability of the vaccine itself and for its greater availability," Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a video conference with the developers Monday.

Separately, Russian officials said Monday that Sputnik V was effective against a new strain of the virus, which was found in the U.K. and appeared to be spreading 70% faster than earlier variants, because Sputnik V had been successful despite previous mutations, they said.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia's sovereign-wealth fund which has backed the Sputnik V vaccine, said that trials of the combination between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Russian shot would begin soon in three countries, including in the Middle East.

The trial could help raise the international profile of Russia's vaccine, which has drawn skepticism from Western scientists and politicians for its speedy approval in August. Moscow has sold Sputnik V to dozens of countries, including Brazil, India and Mexico, and aims to produce 500 million doses abroad next year. On Monday, the fund said that Belarus became the first foreign country to officially register the vaccine.

The signing of the memorandum came as Russia on Monday reported a new record increase in infections, registering 29,350 cases and bringing the nationwide total to nearly 2.9 million--the fourth-highest in the world after the U.S., India and Brazil.