Meeting of the directors of the Pasteur Institute of Iran and the Finlay Institute of Cuba
Meeting of the directors of the Pasteur Institute of Iran and the Finlay Institute of Cuba: From scientific collaboration to vaccine production
Dr Alireza Biglari, Director of the Pasteur Institute of Iran, said at a press conference at the Iran Ministry of Health that the Pasteur Institute of Iran has a history of 100 years; from the first days of announcing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pasteur Institute of Iran was responsible for the rapid and correct diagnosis of the disease. At present, around 400 COVID-19 diagnostic laboratories have been established throughout the country, focusing on the Pasteur Institute of Iran and the Ministry of Health. After that, we started designing and making a vaccine. There were several important issues, including the ability to take advantage of the capabilities of the Pasteur Institute of Iran. Therefore, it had to be done in such a way that after the end of the pandemic, those facilities and infrastructure could be used for other projects as well. The result of the studies was scientific and technical cooperation with Cuba.
Dr Alireza Biglari said: "We are determined to submit the documentation of this vaccine to the World Health Organization upon completion of the information. At present, 120,000 doses of this vaccine have been delivered to the Ministry of Health, which will be used for general vaccination.
Biglari stated: In addition to Cuba, a clinical trial with good quality has been conducted in eight cities of the country for 24,000 volunteers. He added: The first industrial production line of this vaccine will start in September and we hope to be operational in the early fall with a capacity of 3 million doses. At the end of the fall, the second line with the same capacity will be put into operation. In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, this product line can also be used to produce other vaccines.
Biglari stated: In Cuba, 2 doses of the vaccine showed 65% efficacy against the virus. It was also found that if we have significant mutations, a dose reminder increases the effectiveness of the vaccine to 91.2%. Also, three doses of the vaccine may prevent the transmission of the virus in 75% of cases. It seems that this vaccine can significantly reduce the percentage of deaths of patients.
Director of Cuba’s Finlay Institute of Vaccines, Dr Vicente Verez Bencomo, also stated at the meeting that: The Cuban Finlay Institute has developed a variety of vaccines over the past 30 years. The institute aimed to produce a meningitis B vaccine for children. Accordingly, Fidel Castro and the Cuban government made a special investment in the Finlay Institute of Vaccines and produced vaccines such as Streptococcus pneumonia, typhoid, cholera and Haemophilus influenza.
He continued: At the beginning of the formation of the pneumococcal vaccine, four years ago, we started cooperation with the Pasteur Institute of Iran. The main problem was that pneumococcal vaccines were produced in the United States and this vaccine was not available in Cuba and Iran. Thus, we decided to start this cooperation and produce a pneumococcal vaccine for both countries.
The director of the Cuban Finlay Institute added; the world was amazed by the outbreak of Covid-19 and we also knew we had to respond quickly to this pandemic. Therefore, we used the experience of pneumococcal vaccine to produce Covid-19 vaccine and our cooperation was formed to produce a vaccine called Soberana02 (in Cuba) and (PastoCoVac) in Iran.
Vicente Verez Bencomo spoke about the Soberana02 vaccine platform: This vaccine contains two distinct components of tetanus toxoid and recombinant RBD (receptor-binding domain) proteins, which bind to each other and the immune system recognizes these two components as a single component and increases the immune system response.
He added about the Soberana02 vaccine: The purpose of designing and manufacturing this vaccine is to prevent disease and virus transmission. Our current results show that this vaccine is very safe and has high efficacy. The efficacy of this vaccine in two doses of injection was 65% and using the booster dose (Soberana Plus), we were able to increase it to 91.2%. Thus, based on the joint findings of Iran and Cuba in the third phase, we will have Strong documentation for efficacy to submit to the World Health Organization. He added: in phase III clinical trial in Cuba, we determined that at least 74% of the variants belonged to South African variants, which is a vaccine-resistant variant.
In addition, we have started clinical Trials phases I and II of the COVID-19 vaccine in children and we hope to be able to send our children to school after the vaccination in the fall. It does not seem that for children we don’t need the third clinical phase, because by comparing the degree of correlation of immunogenicity in children and adults, we will have enough evidence to obtain a permit for emergency use in children.
He added: We now plan to use a single dose of Soberana Plus as a booster dose in people with a history of the disease, convalescent people, and I am happy to say that with the injection of "Soberana Plus" in these people, we have seen a significant increase antibody level around 100 times higher than in those as a control group. In response to a question about the possibility of using the "Soberana Plus” vaccine as a booster dose for other vaccines, the president of the Cuban Finlay Institute said: We are currently investigating to see if this vaccine can be used as a booster dose for other vaccines or not?
Vicente Verez Bencomo added: Herd immunity may be responsible for currently circulating variants, but there is a serious concern that vaccines may not work for future variants. There is an engineering capacity for the “Soberana plus “and by making some changes, it also created immunity against new variants or mutations.
The director of the Finlay Institute said: Fortunately, we have had a joint and effective scientific and technical cooperation with Iran and the participation of the Pasteur Institute of Iran has been a serious scientific contribution in the production of the current vaccine. In the coming weeks, the highest scientific medal of Cuba is to be awarded to Dr Alireza Biglari, Director of the Pasteur Institute of Iran, for this effective cooperation.
He stated: It should be noted that in the current situation, travel is difficult due to the spread of the COVID-19 and if I came to Iran, it is to answer the doubts. I must say that the result of effective cooperation is that the sum of "one" and "one" is more than “two” and the result of our cooperation is the same that we are pleased with.
The director of the Finlay Institute said: Our clinical team was very pleased with their visits to the clinical trials in Iran because the methods used in Iran's clinical trial were in accordance with international standards.
Regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in the world, he said: Political factors and the acceptance of responsibility can influence the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the vaccine is not distributed fairly in the world and it is not available for poor countries. Therefore, the virus has the opportunity to spread and mutate more in poor countries and these new mutations could go back to the countries that have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Thus, access to vaccines for all countries is very important and contrary to popular belief, the current war is not a war of vaccine companies, but a war of this virus and humanity and vaccine companies support each other to make more effective and safe vaccines.