A top Russian official denied accusations that hackers working for the country’s intelligence agency tried to steal data from coronavirus researchers in the U.K., U.S. and Canada and said Russia could have a vaccine ready as early as September, reported Bloomberg.
“Russia may be one of the first to produce a vaccine against the backdrop of the billions that are being invested in the U.S. and all the pharma companies working on it," said Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the government-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) which is financing the new vaccine. “It's a little bit of a shocking story."
These comments come after the U.K., U.S., and Canada accused hackers working with the Russian state-sponsored group APT29 of trying to obtain COVID-19 vaccine research. Dmitriev added that Russia did not need to steal data because it had already signed a deal with AstraZeneca Plc to produce the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine at R-Pharm.
“Everything that is needed to produce the British vaccine has already been transferred to R-Pharm," he said. “AstraZeneca has already signed commitments to transfer all production of the British vaccine to R-Pharm.'
However, some Western experts doubt that Russia could produce its own vaccine as early as September. “We don't think that's realistic," told Bloomberg Peter Shapiro, a pharmaceutical analyst at the research firm GlobalData.
Dmitriev, however, added that he that he’s already taken Russia’s leading vaccine candidate himself and given it to his whole family. The vaccine has completed a phase 1 trial in 50 people and is set to start phase 3 trials with thousands of people on August 3 in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The institute responsible for the vaccine has yet to publish results but Dmitriev said Russia could produce 30 million doses domestically in 2020 and 170 million abroad. Time will tell if Russia does indeed beat the West to a vaccine.