South Korean firm to produce 150 mln doses a year of Russian COVID-19 vaccine: RDIF

FILE PHOTO: A nurse prepares Russia's "Sputnik-V" vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for inoculation at a clinic in Tver, Russia October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s GL Rapha will make more than 150 million doses of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine per year, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said on Friday, one of its biggest production deals announced so far as Moscow aims to boost output abroad.

While Russia is ramping up its domestic production capacities, which will be focused on meeting its own needs, it has also reached agreements to produce 500 million doses annually abroad, which will supply other countries.

The South Korean deal marks a second production agreement since Russia said on Wednesday that the vaccine was found to be 92% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 according to interim trial results.

Hours after the results were announced, China's Tibet Rhodiola Pharmaceutical Holding 600211.SS said a deal had been agreed to manufacture, sell and test Sputnik V vaccine in China.

The South Korean firm is expected to begin production next month, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a statement on Friday. The doses will be intended for global distribution, it said.

GL Rapha has been in talks with RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev for several months this year after the sovereign fund approached it first, a spokesperson for the South Korean firm said.

Dmitriev had planned to visit the company, but the plan was put off due to the pandemic, the official said. The biotech company, founded in 2007, offers fill and finish of vials and oversees the whole process of vaccine production.

RDIF, which is backing the vaccine’s development and is responsible for its marketing abroad, said it had orders for more than 1.2 billion doses of Sputnik V.

Reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow and Sangmi Cha in Seoul; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Kim Coghill