Booked Trips To Moscow And An Indian Link: The Story Behind The Argentine Version Of The Sputnik Vaccine

Last Friday, a batch of Sputnik V vaccines flew from Argentina to Russia. While thousands of doses arrive in the country, these vials made the reverse path: they left Pilar for Moscow to undergo a quality control by the Gamaleya Institute that, a week before, on April 12, had sent the active principle for the essays.

It was a process that began two months ago, which 45 days ago had the first hand-in-hand in Moscow and that this Tuesday he advanced a key step when the official website of Sputnik V confirmed that the Richmond laboratory will begin to produce the vaccine on a large scale and that Argentina will be the first country in Latin America to do so. Hence, as a symbol, comes Sputnik “A”.

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A roadmap that has yet to overcome a series of instances. Gamaleya is expected to ship the first antigen in May to advance the final stage at the Richmond plant, and those doses will be available in June. “We want to produce enough in the short term to satisfy urgent demand. The intention is to produce the quantity to get out of the crisis,” he confided to elDiarioAR. a source linked to the operation.

On Monday, in Moscow, the president of the Richmond laboratory, Marcelo Figueiras, met with the Minister of Economy Martín Guzmán and the presidential adviser Cecilia Nicolini. What told elDiarioAR last weekGuzmán extended his trip to Europe and added a stopover in Moscow where, in addition to the IMF, he added the negotiation for vaccines to the agenda. Nicolini – who became the link in situ of the Sputnik V chapter – he traveled in recent days and on Sunday he was already in the Russian capital to also unblock new shipments of vaccines: one arrived this Monday; another would arrive on the weekend.

It was, in a way, a symbolic gesture: since the Sputnik V negotiation was established “state by state” after the mini crisis with the HLB Pharma Group laboratory, the link with Russia requires – or suggests – an official intermediation.

The negotiation was already underway, it accelerated in April with the shipment of the active principle by Gamaleya and Figueiras traveled with his technical group in search of the approval of that institute so that the Richmond plant in Pilar can begin with the formulation, packaging.

There was, in the middle, a key player: the Hetero Lab in India, associated with Richmond for more than two decades in the development of biotechnology and the production of generic drugs.What makes this Indian laboratory an essential piece in the history of the Sputnik “A”? What

is one of the technology transfer managers at the Gamaleya Institute for the production and formulation of the vaccine. He was the one who proposed local development to Richmond with the aim of being a hub for Latin America.

The link It was through Hetero Labs, which later had government support from the Casa Rosada. In February, when the contacts were barely germinal, the Argentine president, Alberto Fernández, visited the Richmond plant in the Pilar Industrial Park. Last week, when the production of the first pilot batch began, Figueiras invited Nicolini and the Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti.

Guzmán’s intervention, directly in Moscow, must be read in a double key: the minister appears linked to good news that exceeds his specific scope of the Economy and the almost monotheme of debt, and reinforces the government’s leading role in such a sensitive matter and popular like the vaccine.

“Everyone is pushing for the agreement to be closed: the government, the private companies, the provinces. Guzmán’s word serves to strengthen the position,” confessed a source involved in the operation.

45 days ago, Figueiras made a reserved trip to Moscow to advance with the global agreement: the authorization to advance with the construction of a new plant for the production of vaccines, not just COVID-19, whose investment was estimated between 70 and 100 million dollars. Last week he went on the market to look for funds and got offers for more than 80 million.

But this process has another speed: the plant would be active during 2021 and would allow the production of the antigen. The agreement that advanced this week, and which still lacks some stages of adjustments and authorizations, is for the packaging of the active principle sent by Russia, a process that Richmond intends to be activated in May in order to meet the high local demand in the winter . They speak of June although it is still conditional.

The open date, beyond the wishes, is crossed by the imponderables. Days ago Richmond had to resolve a question of raw materials: part of the vials for the vaccine was not available on the market. He was finally able to complete the process and on Friday the “pilot batch” of vaccines left for Moscow. The Ministry of Productive Development intervened in this process.

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