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Cooperation with AstraZeneca a ‘nice instance’

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A picture taken on December 4, 2020 shows the manufacture of the Russian Gam-COVID-Vac vaccine against the coronavirus.

OLGA MALTSEVA | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – Cooperation between vaccine makers will increase in 2021, according to the head of the Russian sovereign wealth fund, who welcomed the recently announced combined study for the two candidates developed by Russia and the UK

“I think next year will be the era of vaccine cooperation rather than vaccine competition,” Kirill Dmitriev, the executive director of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which supports the country’s Covid vaccine called “Sputnik V”, told CNBC on Thursday.

Last Friday, British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said it would soon be working with Russia’s Gamaleya Institute to investigate whether the two thrusts could be successfully combined.

RDIF said clinical trials of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in combination with its own would begin in late December. Dmitriev told CNBC on Thursday that the collaboration was a “great example of a vaccine partnership”.

“I think the world should focus on partnership rather than competition because we all need vaccines to be successful.”

“We believe all vaccines are great and will get great results,” he added.

For its part, AstraZeneca (whose vaccine had an average efficacy of 70.4% based on combining two dosage regimens in late-stage clinical trials) said in a statement that “different Covid-19 vaccines can be combined” to help Improve protection and / or improve the accessibility of vaccines. It is therefore important to study different vaccine combinations in order to make vaccination programs more flexible. “

Russia said earlier this week that data from the third and final checkpoint in its vaccine’s late clinical trial showed its candidate had a 91.4% rate of effectiveness in preventing Covid infection.

Dmitriev said working with AstraZeneca could help “improve the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine”.

He believed that other vaccine manufacturers would work together to “check the interoperability of different vaccines”.

There was international skepticism about Russia’s vaccine, given that the country’s regulators approved it (back in August) before late-stage clinical trials had even started.

Clinical trial data has yet to be published. On Monday, Russia’s vaccine makers said study research data “will be published by the Gamaleya Center team in one of the leading international journals,” but did not say when it might be.

Russia has repeatedly said that criticism of its vaccine stems from “information warfare” and Russophobia. Last week, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said there had been a “smear campaign” against the Russian vaccine, TASS news agency reported.

Working with AstraZeneca is all the more interesting as the UK, US and Canada accused Russia of supporting hackers trying to steal research on coronavirus vaccines. Russia vehemently denied the hacking claims.

– CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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