Dr. Reddy's shuts 'key' plants worldwide after potential cyberattack hits COVID work

As major drugmakers race to develop effective COVID-19 vaccines, a rogue's gallery of bad state actors have been pegged behind a series of data breaches into critical research. Now, an Indian generics maker has been hit with a potential cyberattack, and it's shutting down some of its plants to isolate the problem. 

Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories isolated all data center services as a preventive measure after detecting a breach, the company said Thursday. The company has shut “key” plants, ET Times reported. Plants in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, India and Russia were said to have been impacted.

“We are anticipating all services to be up within 24 hours and we do not foresee any major impact on our operations due to this incident,” company chief information officer, Mukesh Rathi, said in a statement (PDF).

The company didn’t specify what part of the company’s computer system was breached or whether any meaningful data have been obtained. The incident came just as the generics maker is gearing up for a phase 2/3 clinical trial of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed Sputnik V, after gaining the trial go-ahead from Indian regulators last week.

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Safety and immunogenicity data on 100 subjects in the phase 2 part of the trial are required before it can move into the phase 3 on larger populations. Local regulators previously rejected Dr. Reddy’s proposal for an immediate phase 3 study, noting that the phase 1/2 trial in Russia was too small.

With Sputnik V, Russia claimed to be the first in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine in August. The move was not well-received from both inside and outside Russia, as the shot was only tested in 76 people at the time.

Besides India, Sputnik V is also being tested in phase 3 trials in Russia, Belarus, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.

Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, will supply 100 million doses of the vaccine to Dr. Reddy’s for distribution upon final commercial nod in India.

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A data breach targeting Sputnik V would be a role-reversal for Russia after other nations fingered the rogue state in a series of data breaches earlier this year. 

In July, cybersecurity officials from the U.S., U.K. and Canada accused hackers with a Russian background of trying to steal COVID-19 researchers in the three countries. Before that, the U.S. government also pointed the finger at China and Iran for alleged hacking efforts targeting companies developing COVID-19 vaccines and drugs.