EghtesadOnline: Cuba said it has signed an accord with Iran to transfer the technology for its most advanced coronavirus vaccine candidate and carry out last-stage clinical trials in humans in Iran.
The allies are both under fierce US sanctions that exempt medicine yet often put foreign pharmaceutical companies off trading with them and as such they seek to be self-reliant. Both are also strapped for cash.
Iran launched human trials of its first domestic Covid-19 vaccine candidate late last month, while Cuba has four candidates currently in trials although none yet in humans.
Once its most advanced candidate, Soberana (Sovereign) 2, has completed Phase II trials that started on Dec. 22, it will be tested in human trials on around 150,000 people in Havana, officials have said, Reuters reported.
Yet the Caribbean country will need to conduct more human trials abroad, as given it does not have a high infection rate due to its successful management of the viral outbreak, they said. Iran, meanwhile, has been the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute said on Friday it has signed an accord with Iran’s Pasteur Institute to collaborate on testing of Soberana 2.
“This synergy will enable both countries to advance more rapidly in the immunization against the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” it said on its Twitter account.
Cuba says several countries have expressed interest in its coronavirus vaccines but this is the first such accord it has reached.
Kianoush Jahanpur, an Iranian health official, has said 50,000 volunteers would be recruited to carry out the Phase III clinical trials.
Technology transfer and joint production were preconditions for allowing human testing in the country, he added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was “impressed” by the biotech achievements of its old ally Cuba in the fight against Covid-19 during a visit to Havana on a Latin American tour last November.
In addition to developing its own vaccine, Iran is participating in the COVAX scheme that aims to secure fair access to Covid-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
However, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Friday banned the Iranian government from importing Covid-19 vaccines from the United States and Britain, calling the western powers “untrustworthy”.
Cuba has not talked of importing vaccines from elsewhere and said it intends to start vaccinating its population against Covid-19 with its own vaccine in the first half of the year.