Celltrion said that it would start clinical trials on humans to come up with a treatment of the new coronavirus within the next six months while developing a super-fast test kit.
In a live YouTube news conference Thursday, Celltrion Group Chairman Seo Jung-jin said the company is now going all out to develop the treatment of COVID-19 patients with its experimental antiviral as soon as possible.
“We have allocated 20 billion won ($16.6 million) to developing treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus,” Seo said. “The company will use the fund to expedite the research and development (R&D) project, which typically takes 18 months.”
|Celltrion Group Chairman Seo Jung-jin explains the company’s goal in combating COVID-19 in an online news conference on Thursday.|
Given the emergency in Korea, the company plans to communicate closely with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to initiate its antibody’s use on confirmed patients after six months, Seo added.
Celltrion has secured blood samples from COVID-19 patients from Seoul National University Hospital and is discussing to obtain more samples from two other hospitals -- Chonnam National University and Chosun University.
“We will narrow down the antibody candidates by the end of April and will select the most potent pipeline,” Seo said.
While conventional initial clinical trials limit patient participation to only several dozen, the company will work with the government to expand the clinical trial size and inject the candidate to as many patients as possible.
“We will demonstrate safety in a phase 1 study and both safety and efficacy and side effects in up to 1,000 patients in a phase 3 trial,” Seo said.
During the media event, Seo said the company has also been working to develop an upgraded diagnostic kit for the novel coronavirus that can decrease the test time to 15-20 minutes and hopes to commercialize it within the next three months.
“There are two diagnostic methods. One is a quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR), which is widely used as the accuracy is high but takes a few hours to obtain results. The other is a rapid diagnostic kit, which gives fast results but has low accuracy,” Seo said. “Celltrion is planning to combine the advantages of both methods in developing its diagnostic kit.”
The company will deploy diagnostic kits to Korea, Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East.
“Our goal is to reduce the speed of COVID-19 spread by establishing a system to identify and isolate confirmed patients as quickly as possible in these countries,” Seo said, adding that the company will also lend a hand to the national battle against face mask shortage.
Celltrion plans to supply anti-fine dust masks to about 500,000 people living in Incheon and Cheongju, where the company’s business sites are located, Seo said.
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