Russia has denied having hacked Covid-19 data from the University of Oxford, as it signed a deal with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and the college to produce a vaccine.
Moscow’s sovereign wealth fund publicly announced the details of the deal after the Kremlin was accused of engaging in cyber espionage.
Britain, Canada and the United States said on Thursday that Russian-backed hackers were trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine and research into treatments from academic and pharmaceutical institutions around the world – allegations denied by the Kremlin.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian sovereign wealth fund, pictured right, with President Vladimir Putin said Moscow did not need to steal vaccine information from Oxford University because it had already signed an agreement for produce the drug.
Oxford University is working on a Covid-19 vaccine with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, but Russian sovereign wealth fund has also joined the effort
Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said in an interview on Friday that Moscow did not need to steal secrets because it already had a deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture the potential British vaccine in Russia.
Dmitriev said: “AstraZeneca already has an agreement… with R-Pharm (an RDIF portfolio company) on the full localization and production of the Oxford vaccine in Russia.”
Alexey Repik, chairman of the board of directors of R-Pharm, said Friday that his company had signed the agreement.
“There is nothing to steal,” Dmitriev, who is involved in coordinating Russia’s search for a vaccine, told Reuters. “Everything will be given to Russia. “
AstraZeneca declined to comment. He said last month he was in talks with Russia and other countries over supply agreements for his potential coronavirus vaccine.
Dmitriev said that Russia’s acquisition of the vaccine developed by the British was intended to complement, not replace, its own locally produced vaccine, the one that Moscow is focusing on developing.
Western claims that Moscow was trying to steal vaccine secrets sounded like an attempt to undermine the credibility of Russia’s own vaccine, he said, describing it as one of the most promising in the world, along with the vaccine from Oxford and a vaccine developed by the Chinese.
“These attacks show that other countries do not have an open approach, they are not happy that the Russian vaccine is successful, and they are jealous that the Russian vaccine may be the first and perhaps more effective than others, ”he said.
“It’s part of the global (vaccine) competition.”
Dominic Grieve, former chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, who prepared a report on Moscow’s interference in the UK, told the Telegraph: “The Russians are masters of disinformation, and what they say can never be taken at face value.
“I have no reason to believe that the British government is misleading the public and any reason to assume that our security services have been adamantly professional in investigating the source of this hacking.” “
Dmitriev said Russia’s own vaccine is due to be approved by the regulator next month and is expected to be administered to a large portion of the Russian population in September. If this happens, it would make it the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world to be approved.
The first human trial of the vaccine, a one-month trial of 38 people, ended this week. Researchers concluded that it was safe to use and induced an immune response, although the strength of that response remains unclear
The first human trial of the vaccine, a one-month trial of 38 people, ended this week. The researchers concluded that it was safe to use and induced an immune response, although the strength of this response remains uncertain.
A larger phase III trial involving several thousand people is expected to start in August after the completion of a phase II trial of 100 people on August 3.
Dmitriev, who injected the Russian vaccine himself, said he believed he was superior to others. He said that its effect lasted longer, that it was based on proven viral technology and had so far shown no side effects, including on female fertility. Reuters could not verify these claims.
The global vaccine race was about scientific prestige, international cooperation and Russia’s desire to vaccinate its own population as quickly as possible in order to resume full economic activity, he said.
Deploying a vaccine would not be very cost effective, Dmitriev said, as the Russian-made vaccine would be sold at non-profit prices and free at the point of delivery in Russia.
Russia’s interest in the Oxford vaccine, which he described as “very good,” stems from the desire to help international efforts to deploy a vaccine. Moscow will supply the vaccine developed by the British to other countries that want it, he said.