With Europe deep in the throes of a botched COVID-19 vaccine rollout, New Europe spoke with Stefano Maggi, an advisor to the President of the Italo-Russian Chamber of Commerce, about the production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. Italy will be the first EU country to produce the vaccine, while at the same time several Italian politicians, including Matteo Salvini, continue to push for the use of the controversial Russian shot.

New Europe (NE): What was the genesis of this business agreement?

Stefano Maggi (SM): The first contact between the parties involved started around October-November, after the publication of Lancet’s study about the Sputnik vaccine. We introduced our Russian counterpart to several pharmaceutical companies and in the end, our member, Adienne Pharma & Biotech, was selected for production in Italy. Adienne has all the technology (plants and bioreactors) to develop the vaccine with the best technology.

NE: Why do you think they chose Adienne?

SM: I think they chose this company because they are more flexible, in comparison to others, as they don’t have an active production of a specific drug, but are producing so-called ”orphan drugs” that they can reconvert quickly thanks to an important investment done a few years ago. They are one of the few companies in Italy available for this type of production.

NE: Can you tell me more about the production timing?

SM: From July, till the end of the year, Adienne will start producing the vaccine. At the production site, we foresee 10 million doses in six months, as confirmed by the president of the Russian fund.

NE: How do you see the future of Sputnik V at the EU level?

SM: Having said that, Hungary and Slovakia have already started to use Sputnik, I think it would be rational, at his moment, where – if in Europe the situation is still uncertain, it would be good to follow the example of the United Arab Emirates and decide to approve and use all the vaccines available on the market. In the UAE they use Sputnik, the Chinese vaccine, Astra-Zeneca and all of the others. Also in Russia, thanks to the vaccine, a national reopening strategy could be already implemented. if Italy and Europe are not going to accelerate the vaccination process, the end of the COVID crisis will still be far away with all the consequences of the case.

NE: Do you think there will be other production sites of Adienne in Italy?

SM: The plan is to use only the production site at Adienne, which is in Caponago (northern Itlay’s Monza province). This will have a positive impact on the local supply chain. Production of the Italo-Swiis company will only take place only in Italy.

NE: Did you involve any political figures in this operation? Some political parties in Italy have supported the distribution of Sputnik V in Italy.

SM: We didn’t get so far as to look for any single political endorsement or any contact related to politics. Obviously, we are available to start a dialogue with everybody but this is not our goal. We just want to facilitate business activities.

NE: Are these doses going to stay in Italy in the event that the EMA gives the green light for the Sputnik vaccine?

SM: I this that if the EMA were to authorize Sputnik that it will also receive the largest share of the doses. If the vaccine distribution is managed at the EU level, I assume that there will be the same process as the other vaccines. Another scenario could be that if Italy bypasses the EU distribution strategy that we would then only promote the production and not the distribution. I want to stress that we don’t have a political affiliation. Our job is done. We are not part of the agreement and we are going to earn anything out of it.

NE: Do you think that other companies could produce Sputnik in Europe?

SM: I’m sure that other companies are going to contact the Russian Fund and sign similar agreements. 10 million doses are not enough in order to cover either Italy’s or Europe’s needs. I know from the press that there are some contacts with some German counterparts. Because of this, I foresee other agreements. The Russian Fund has already confirmed other production agreements in Europe. I then want to stress the fact that Italy was able, this time. to be the first in line in this regard. And not because of its “flag”, but instead because of its advanced technology. This is a typical success case for Italian SMEs. For now, a key issues is to work on the certification of digital vaccination and test negativity in order to have a certification process between Russia and Italy.


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