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Korean drug firms in early stage of coronavirus vaccine development

/ 11:44 AM May 20, 2020

Korean Intellectual Property Office-Yonhap via The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

SEOUL — South Korean pharmaceutical firms are in the beginning stages of coronavirus vaccine development, lagging behind US rivals, industry sources said Wednesday.

No domestic companies have received the green light for clinical trials for vaccine candidates from the drug safety authorities, though US biotech firm Moderna announced Monday all participants in its coronavirus vaccine test generated antibodies.

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Spearheading the local effort is a six-firm consortium led by biopharmaceutical maker Genexine Inc. and SK Life Science Inc., a unit of South Korea’s No. 3 conglomerate SK Group.

The Genexine consortium has successfully carried out an experiment of its vaccine candidate on monkeys, with consortium member Binex completing the production of a sample.

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The consortium is scheduled to submit a clinical test plan to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety within this month in the hope of starting trials in June.

SK Life Science is currently conducting a safety test on its COVID-19 vaccine candidate and is aiming to start a clinical trial in September.

“Following an internal assessment, the safety test is being carried out on animals,” a company official said. “The start of clinical tests could be moved up.”

According to the sources, several other pharmaceutical firms are trying to develop coronavirus vaccine drugs, but details about their efforts have yet to be unveiled.

South Korea has been ramping up its support for the development of drugs and vaccines for the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 11,000 people and claimed 263 lives here.

Two weeks ago, the government said the country was conducting clinical tests for seven existing drugs to see if any of them can effectively treat the new coronavirus.

Clinical tests for three possible vaccines may be launched before the year’s end, it said, adding a vaccine may be developed before the end of next year following successful tests. Yonhap

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