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Korean drugmakers step up developing COVID-19 vaccine, treatments
  • By Park Gi-taek
  • Published 2020.03.09 15:11
  • Updated 2020.03.09 15:51
  • comments 0

Fifteen Korean pharmaceutical and biotech companies have jumped into the development of vaccines or treatments against the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-pharma Manufacturers Association (KPBMA), the 15 firms have either begun working on a COVID-19 vaccine or a treatment or preparing to do so. Four government institutions also started to develop a vaccine or a treatment to fight the virus, the association said.

Among the 15, five with capabilities of flu vaccine development -- GC Pharma, SK Bioscience, Boryung Biopharma, Sumagen, and G+Flas Life Sciences -- are working on a COVID-19 vaccine.

The other 10 are finding new drug candidates to treat COVID-19 or verifying existing drugs’ efficacy on COVID-19. They are Celltrion, Korea United Pharm, Cellivery Therapeutics, NovaCell Technology, Immune Med, Eutilex, Genomictree, Kainos Medicine, Komi Pharm, and Gemvax & Kael.

Research institutions and pharmaceutical firms in the public and private sectors have collaborated efforts for the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

The Korea National Institute of Health has recently announced eight research projects for the development of quick diagnostic agents, vaccines, and treatments. The Ministry of Science and ICT is conducting collaborative research with various local research institutes, including the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology.

KPBMA also said Korea needs to benchmark successful public-private partnerships -- such as Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) – to expedite the development of COVID-19 vaccine and treatment and raise the chance of commercialization.

IMI’s funding comes from the European Union (EU) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). It is the world’s largest public-private partnership in healthcare.

For IMI, academia, industries, patient groups, regulatory and medical technology evaluation agencies join their efforts for various projects. To battle COVID-19, they have invested 45 million euros in developing therapeutics and diagnostic products.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an international nonprofit group for infectious disease control and vaccine development, receives funds not only from nonprofit foundations such as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation but governments around the world to support four COVID-19 projects.

In Korea, the government has spent 36.8 billion won for coronavirus-related research projects at universities and research institutes for the past decade. Industries, research institutions, and medical societies have conducted projects for the public-private partnership.

“In a national disaster situation, we need special measures to develop vaccines and treatments quickly, to protect our pharmaceutical sovereignty,” KPBMA Chairman Won Hee-mok said. “With the pharmaceutical industry’s R&D capabilities and the public-private collaboration supported by the government, we will overcome this crisis.”


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