Drug from Japan could be imported for treatment

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Drug from Japan could be imported for treatment

Korea is developing a vaccine for the coronavirus while reviewing plans to import a Japanese antiviral drug to treat the growing number of people infected, officials said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said in a press briefing Tuesday that it is considering a regulatory exemption for imports of Avigan, a drug made by Toyama Chemical and approved for treatment of influenza in 2014.

According to Japanese media outlets Tuesday, the drug showed effects in treating mild coronavirus cases in Japan.

They said the Japanese government is preparing to supply the drug across its own country within the next few days.

The coronavirus that spread from China doesn’t have a certified treatment nor vaccine as of yet.

As Avigan, or favipiravir, is not being imported to Korea at the moment, the Korean government has been using some forms of malaria and H.I.V. treatments to alleviate symptoms for some patients in Korea.

H.I.V. treatment Kaletra and malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine have alleviated pneumonia symptoms in more than 20 patients in Korea so far, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a number of hospitals.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety also said Korea has started developing a vaccine for the virus with the help of local companies and researchers.

The ministry recently finished accepting applications for companies willing to engage in a government-supported project to develop treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus dubbed Covid-19 by the World Health Organization.

SK Bioscience said Monday that it is building research and development (R&D) technology to initiate a speedy response to future outbreaks of mutant viruses like the coronavirus.

The company plans to spin off on its cervical cancer vaccines program for the start of the R&D technology, which will be ready in approximately two years.

Covid-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome are forms of coronaviruses that were created from mutations while spreading among humans.

Developing a vaccine for coronaviruses usually requires anywhere between one to five years, but SK Bioscience believes that development of new technology will shorten the process by finding out what R&D processes work the best for each virus.

Kyung Nam Pharm said earlier this month it started the development of a hand sanitizer for Covid-19 with plans to launch it next month. Kukje Pharma is running its mask factory nonstop to meet rising demand.

Korea is not alone in the race to develop a vaccine for Covid-19.

U.S. biotech company Moderna became the first company to release a potential coronavirus vaccine and announced Monday that it sent samples to the U.S. National Institutes of Health to be tested on humans. If successful, the product could be available in coming months.

Johnson & Johnson announced earlier that its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical is collaborating with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (Barda) to accelerate its development of a coronavirus vaccine.

France’s Sanofi also started a partnership with Barda to jump-start vaccine development for the novel coronavirus.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]

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