When Russia licensed the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, much attention turned to the Gamaleya Institute, which makes the vaccine.
Some have expressed doubts about the Russian speed, pointing out that Russian pharmaceutical companies are relatively small, Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology is little known, important steps are needed. the need for vaccine approval is not yet complete when they have been testing the vaccine in humans for two months. Meanwhile, the institute’s leaders asserted that their success was not natural, but came from the efforts of the past two decades.
Scientist working at the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow on August 6. Photo: Reuters.
“The speed is not surprising if you understand the factors behind it,” said Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Institute, and said they have been working on antiviral vaccines like Covid-19 since the 1980s.
“In the absence of a global health threat in recent decades, vaccine research has not received much attention from the world. Meanwhile, Russian labs continue their research efforts.” We are proud of our Russian scientific heritage, which enabled us to develop the Covid-19 vaccine very quickly. ”
Until last week, few people outside of Russia knew about the Gamaleya Institute, named after the scientist Nikolay Gamaleya, who studied at the laboratory of French biologist Louis Pasteur in Paris and who worked for the job. deploying vaccination against smallpox for Red Army soldiers.
The institute was established in 1891, is headquartered in Moscow and managed by the Russian Ministry of Health, introduces itself as “owning one of the world’s most unique ‘virus libraries’ and has its own vaccine production facility.” “. They say they have developed vaccines against influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Both types are in clinical trials.
Very few people think that the Russian institute will overtake rivals Britain and America, backed by giant pharmaceutical corporations to start vaccination. On the orders of President Putin, frontline health workers will begin injecting Sputnik V in the next few weeks.
In fact, the Gamaleya Institute is unlikely to be any faster than the other vaccine developers. In May 2020, the center announced that it had developed a potential Covid-19 vaccine. Phase One trials were completed on June 18 and Phase Two completed in July. Putin helped Sputnik V hit the finish line earlier than other vaccines by approving it before completing Phase Three trials to Safety and effectiveness tests are permanent, can take thousands of volunteers and take several years. That process just started in Russia last week.
Meanwhile, Gintsburg rejected doubts about the risks. He and a small group of colleagues at the institute injected themselves with the vaccine in March. He confirmed that the vaccine was safe and effective.
To defend the decision to launch a vaccine that is still in beta testing, the Russian government and its supporters point out that Gintsburg and his colleagues successfully developed the Ebola vaccine in 2015. Sputnik V was also given developed based on similar technology.
“For us, the vaccine licensing was not a surprise, it didn’t come out of nowhere,” said Nikolay Bespalov, head of business development at RNC Pharma, a Russian industrial consulting firm. to speak.
“It is no secret that Russian scientists can develop and that the Russian pharmaceutical industry can manufacture drugs that require intensive scientific research is no longer a secret,” Bespalov said. “In Russia, we have a serious scientific background, promoted by many scientists and organizations. We also have important historical experiences.”
The Soviet Union once had a high standard of scientific research, but the huge decline in funding and talent after the breakup of the Soviet Union left Russia in a modest position in the global pharmaceutical industry.
Last year, imports accounted for about 60% of the Russian drug market. Binnopharm, a Russian company contracted to produce vaccines with the Gamaleya Institute, is only capable of producing 1.5 million doses a year. Meanwhile, the British government last week reached an agreement with two US pharmaceutical manufacturers, ordering up to at least 340 million doses of vaccine.
“Russia doesn’t have any leading pharmaceutical companies. Most pharmaceutical research takes place in state institutions and less information is disclosed than Western or Chinese researchers,” said Rasmus Bech. Hansen, chief executive officer of Airfinity, a London-based scientific analysis firm, said.
While in the UK and US, the government mainly finances and promotes orders, and vaccine development in Russia is entirely state-controlled. Gamaleya Institute is controlled by the government, vaccines are funded by the Investment Fund