MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia is set to play a key role in the development of a Russian COVID-19 vaccine that produced promising results in the first phase of human trials.
The monthlong trial on 38 people ended this week, and a 100-person Phase II trial is under way.
Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said the Kingdom could be part of Phase III , involving thousands of people, which is expected to begin in August.
“We are not only discussing the third stage of clinical trials of the Russian vaccine in Saudi Arabia,” said Dmitriev on Thursday.
“The Saudis have already bought our drug Avifavir, and we are also discussing with Saudi Arabia the production of the Russian vaccine on its territory.”
Avifavir is a drug used to treat severe forms of influenza, which has proven effective in clinical trials for treating COVID-19. Saudi authorities also recently bought supplies of COVID-19 testing kits from Russia.
The RDIF and the Kingdom have worked together on a number of investment projects. Dmitriev welcomed the ongoing collaboration and hailed the Saudi-Russian partnership as a good example of positive interaction between nations.
“We believe that Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Russia and we consider that we have very good cooperation regarding the vaccine,” he said, adding that clinical trials could be carried out in the Kingdom. “We are ready also to discuss the production of drugs (in Saudi Arabia) with our Saudi partners.”
The vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, in collaboration with the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Dmitriev said the initial trial found the vaccine to be safe and he expects it to be approved for use in Russia in August. If so, it could be the first approved vaccine in the world.
Russia plans to produce 30 million doses domestically this
year, plus a further 170 million doses elsewhere in the world, including Latin American and the Middle East.