Russia hopes to produce 200 million vaccine doses this year; Japan's Shionogi targets 30 million annual vaccine output

Russia's sovereign wealth fund head Kirill Dmitriev said he himself had been vaccinated and had developed "stable immunity". PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP, REUTERS) - Russia hopes to complete trials of a coronavirus vaccine in August and produce 200 million doses with foreign partners by the end of the year as Japanese drugmaker Shionogi said it aims to boost production capacity to produce enough vaccine for 30 million people annually by the end of 2021.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) with reserved capital of $10 billion (S$13.8 billion) under its management, said on Monday (July 20) that it is working with a government research institute on one of several vaccine projects in the country.

RDIF chief executive Kirill Dmitriev said he hoped the project would receive permission next month to begin production, after the first phase of a vaccine trial was completed last week.

"Immediately after that we are planning to begin mass production," Dmitriev said in a statement on Russia's state anti-coronavirus portal.

"Mass production of this vaccine can stop the pandemic's potential 'second wave'," he said.

He said Russia would be in a position to produce 30 million doses of the vaccine by year's end, with "international partners across the world" joining in to bring the total to 200 million.

The Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology's vaccine is undergoing trials on military and civilian volunteers.

It is based on human adenovirus, a cold virus.

Dmitriev said the second phase of the trial will be over by August 3.

"After that, a third phase of trials will begin in Russia and several countries," he said, adding that Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and others would be involved.

He said that adenoviral vector-based vaccines had been developed since the 1980s and are generally safe.

Dmitriev, 45, said he himself had been vaccinated and had developed "stable immunity" 20 days after the first shot.

Last week Britain, the United States and Canada said a hacking group "almost certainly" linked to Russian intelligence had carried out attacks aimed at stealing vaccine research, a claim denied by Moscow.

Drugmakers around the world are scrambling to develop a treatment or vaccine for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the highly infectious new coronavirus, which has killed more than 604,000 people worldwide.

Amid an intensifying race to develop virus treatments, Japanese drugmaker Shionogi & Co said it plans to add equipment at its plant to triple domestic production capacity of a potential coronavirus vaccine so that it could produce enough for 30 million people annually by the end of next year, a company official told Reuters on Monday.

The company aims to conduct all phases of production, including procurement of materials, in Japan, a company spokesman said on condition of anonymity, confirming a report by the Nikkei business daily.

While the government intends to procure coronavirus vaccines from overseas, boosting domestic production capacity will reduce the risk of being heavily reliant on imports.

Japan has not suffered the explosive surge of coronavirus infections seen in some other countries. It has reported 1,000 deaths to date.

Japanese pharmaceutical firms developing coronavirus vaccines include Shionogi & Co and AnGes.

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