MOSCOW (Reuters) – Biotech group Biocad is discussing producing in China a potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Russia’s Vector state virology institute, the director of the St Petersburg-based company said in an interview.
The potential vaccine – based on the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) – is expected to enter clinical trials in mid-August, Biocad chief executive Dmitry Morozov said. The vaccine is one of six vaccine prototypes the Vector Institute is developing, a World Health Organization list showed.
Biocad is gearing up to produce 4-5 million doses per month of the VSV-based vaccine by the end of this year, if early-stage trials prove it to be safe and effective, Morozov said.
Biocad plans to handle industrial scale production of the vaccine entirely in-house, from manufacturing the virus strain in its bioreactors to dealing with registration and packaging, Morozov said.
“We can do it all at our current facilities,” Morozov said, adding there was no need to expand their production capacity to meet output targets.
“We have received requests about deliveries for export based on the potential success of this vaccine … on the level of countries as well as private companies,” Morozov said, adding that Biocad had received requests from Egypt, South Africa and Thailand.
Biocad is in discussions about producing the Vector VSV vaccine in China, where it has a joint venture with Shanghai Pharma launched in September last year. Shanghai Pharma was not immediately available for comment.
Clinical trials on another of the Vector Institute’s prototypes began on Monday, the state consumer safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said, without providing further details.
The agency was also not immediately available for comment on Biocad’s role in Vector’s vaccine developments.
A separate state research facility in Moscow, the Gamaleya Institute, completed early human trials of an adenovirus-based vaccine earlier this month and expects to enter large-scale trials in August.
More than 100 possible vaccines are being developed to try to stop the coronavirus pandemic. At least four are in final Phase III human trials, according to WHO data – including three developed in China and another in Britain.
Biocad hopes to set a price of between $10-$15 per dose, Morozov said, both domestically and for export.
Mass production could begin in late November or early December, if clinical trial results are positive, Morozov said, though the first group to receive the jab would initially remain quite limited before being gradually widened.
(Reporting by Polina Ivanova. Editing by Jane Merriman)