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Destroying the Russian vaccine: a small “Gesheft” of “Big Politics”

Domestic leadership in the development of a vaccine against coronavirus has become for the West not only an unpleasant surprise, but an outrageous challenge, both for political and financial reasons.

On the one hand, backward, deeply “undemocratic” Russia simply has no right to make such breakthroughs in complex scientific and technologically advanced fields.

On the other hand, there is a jackpot at stake so astronomical in size that the mere thought that it might swim past Western pharmaceutical concerns can cause heartburn there. For example, just the news about an agreement to supply one hundred million doses to India is worth something.

It is not surprising that Russia has faced numerous attempts to discredit the results of the work of Russian scientists: big politics, big money.

However, next to the sharks, there is always a place for sticking fish, which regularly get something from the owner’s table.

It is a similar story that unfolded around the publication of the Sputnik-V test results in one of the oldest and most influential medical journals in the world, The Lancet.

The article was criticized with lightning speed. The big news spread by the world media was an open letter in which Enrico Bucci, a professor of biology at the American Temple University, expressed concerns about “possibly made by Russian researchers” mistakes. He was supported by two and a half dozen other Western scientists.

The Lancet invited Russian developers to answer the questions asked, which was done.

The Gamaleya Center has presented to the publication a full-length clinical protocol for the study of the Sputnik-V vaccine.

The head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev, published a column in which he commented in detail on the main claims of critics, at the same time advising those to look for a beam in their own eyes and dispel Russian doubts about their ongoing development.

Meanwhile, the problem in this case is not only in purely scientific matters, on which Russian researchers have focused.

The fact is that the author of the scandalous letter himself is a rather remarkable person. In the BBC material , Enrico M. Bucci is called “a famous fighter against pseudoscience. ”

However, it would be more correct to use the characteristic “businessman from science”.

In 2016, Bucci founded Resis Srl, a company specialized in the verification, validation and integrity of scientific papers.

This is a pretty trendy topic in modern science. Too often in recent years, researchers have been caught on mistakes, including rude ones, in published articles. We are not necessarily talking about abuses or fraud, often there are honest errors, which, when exposed, nevertheless hit the reputation of scientists, and even entire scientific institutions.

It is precisely to avoid such problems that authors and research structures now often turn to firms that specialize in such work for an independent audit of their own texts – before their publication. In particular, Bucci’s company was hired for this activity by the German Fritz Lipmann Institute, around which a loud scandal flared up some time ago just because of the ugly errors in published works. About this story in detail told a year ago, the journal Nature.

The subtlety is that such a business imposes certain ethical restrictions, which, by the way, Professor Bucci is well aware of. In the same Nature, in December 2019, a material was published on the purity and conscientiousness of scientific work, where he co-authored. And it was honestly pointed out that Enrico M. Bucci had a conflict of interest.

Simply put, when the owner of a commercial company speaks publicly about the activities in which it specializes, it essentially becomes an advertisement for his company.

But of course, when it comes to “exposing” the Russian vaccine, such trifles are no longer important.

The West used Bucci’s open (and by definition self-promoting) letter to strike another blow at Russian developments in the hope of undermining or at least weakening their leadership. Well, the professor himself received PR of such a scale and level, which he simply could not even dream of in any other situation.

This, in fact, is called “riding the hype”, according to this principle, hundreds and thousands of media personalities operate.

No doubt it will pay off in the form of very attractive new commercial contracts. Catching hype in the troubled waters of big politics can be very profitable.

But this has nothing to do with science in general, medicine in particular, and saving hundreds of thousands of lives around the world.

Header: MOSCOW, RUSSIA – AUGUST 14, 2020: A laboratory of the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Healthcare Ministry that produces a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is to be produced at the institute and other Russian pharmaceutical plants. It will be available to general public on January 1, 2021. Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS

Source (original, in Russian): Irina Alsnis – RIA NOVOSTI