Argentine lab strikes deal to produce Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A medical specialist holds a vial of Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus in a department store in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2021 REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - An Argentine laboratory has struck a deal to help produce Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V, according to a company statement shared by the country’s government on Friday, helping boost the local firm’s share price.

Laboratorios Richmond has signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund to be able to manufacture the vaccine, which has so far been the main drug used in Argentina’s fledgling inoculation program.

Argentina was one of the first countries in the region to sign an agreement with Russia to buy Sputnik V and has already received 1.22 million doses from the Russian Gamaleya Institute.

“This potential development will be carried out with the participation of Hetero Labs Limited, a laboratory established in India, with whom Laboratorios Richmond has had a strategic alliance for more than 25 years,” the statement said.

RDIF, which has been marketing Sputnik V abroad, confirmed the Argentina agreement in a statement and said it would soon begin the technology transfer.

Marcelo Figueiras, president of Laboratorios Richmond, said in a radio interview that the plan was a long-term one that would take about a year and involve building a new plant in the province of Buenos Aires with investment of $60-90 million.

“My dream is to manufacture the vaccine for Argentina at an appropriate cost, as low as possible,” he said, adding that he hoped the firm could ramp up to 100 million doses and supply other countries in the region as well.

The government of President Alberto Fernández is looking to increase the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines before winter arrives and a possible second wave of infections. The country has registered over 2 million cases and almost 52,000 deaths.

Argentina received 904,000 vaccine doses from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm on Thursday, in addition to the 580,000 doses already delivered by the Indian Serum Institute of COVISHIELD, its brand name for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow; Editing by Adam Jourdan, Andrea Ricci and Frances Kerry