|Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine / AFP-Yonhap|
By Nam Hyun-woo
Attention is growing on who will form a consortium with GL Rapha and manufacture Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in Korea, as delegates from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) visited the company's plant in the Gangwon Province city of Chuncheon and plan to announce the members of the consortium as early as Tuesday.
According to GL Rapha and its subsidiary Hankook Korus Pharm, Monday, a team of delegates from RDIF visited Hankook Korus' plant in the city for on-site validation of its manufacturing facilities.
An official at GL Rapha said the RDIF has completed its process of selecting possible consortium partners and is planning to name them by Feb. 23.
GL Rapha signed a contract manufacturing organization (CMO) deal with RDIF in November last year to manufacture over 150 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine per year. The Korean company has been manufacturing Sputnik V since December.
To boost manufacturing volume, GL Rapha has been seeking to form a consortium of Korean drug manufacturers, with expectations flying that eight to nine domestic CMO partners including BINEX and ISU Abxis are being tapped as potential partners.
Initially, GC Pharma, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Korea, had also been mentioned as a potential member of the consortium, but the GL Rapha official said that was never the case.
"The deal with RDIF states that GL Rapha is a strategic partner in manufacturing Sputnik V in Korea and the host of the consortium, meaning we are exclusive," the official said. "Given the size of GC Pharma, the company was not involved in the talks in the first place."
In a letter revealed by GL Rapha, RDIF confirmed that GL Rapha is "a strategic host to form the consortium in Korea" and "a strategic partner to handle the production of Sputnik V and to provide to RDIF and/or authorized buyers."
BINEX is a biotech firm providing contract development and manufacturing services and has plants in Incheon and in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. ISU Abxis has a plant in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. The analysis of the Phase 3 clinical trials data of Sputnik V published in the Lancet has demonstrated a 91.6 percent efficacy against COVID-19. The vaccine has been approved in 29 countries including Russia and Argentina.