The Cold War complex – now one of the world’s leading anti-virus centres – aims to have two viable vaccines for Covid-19 ready by June. Scientists at the war-to-peace institute say they are conducting tests on ferrets and “lower primates” like lemurs, a lorises, and galagos or bush babies. Samples from every case of coronavirus in Russia – so far numbering 253, lower than any other large country- are currently going for analysis to the Vector State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology near Novosibirsk in Siberia.
A total of 13 prototype vaccines have been developed at the centre with the aim of one or two being ready for use in June.
The deputy head scientist at Vector, Yelena Gavrilova, said: “Immediately after we got our hands on the living virus, we conducted studies on getting sensitive lab models, which turned out to be ferrets and lower primates.
“Now that we have vaccine prototypes, we test them on the lab animals.”
She said: “We have both vaccines based on known recombinant viruses and synthetic vaccine, developed on six separate technological platforms.”
Heavily-guarded Vector, at Koltsovo in Siberia, was once a key facility in the secret and illegal Soviet biological weapons programme.
It produced smallpox on an industrial scale, while also weaponising deadly Marburg, after being set up in 1973 by USSR leader Leonid Brezhnev, say reports.
In recent years Vector has been involved in efforts to find cures and antidotes to killers such as bubonic plague, anthrax, ebola, hepatitis B, HIV, SARS – and cancer.
Ir remains one of only two depositories in the world permitted to hold stocks of smallpox for research purposes.
The other is in the USA.