Celltrion hoping for coronavirus cure

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Celltrion hoping for coronavirus cure

Celltrion Group hopes to start clinical trials on humans for a coronavirus treatment within the next six months, its chairman sad Thursday.

Korea’s leading biopharmaceutical conglomerate is also working to develop an upgraded diagnostics kit for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and distribute face masks that have been in high demand among Koreans.

During a live YouTube press conference Thursday, Celltrion Group Chairman Seo Jung-jin said the biopharmaceutical conglomerate is going all in to ensure it starts treating Covid-19 patients with the experimental antiviral as soon as possible.

Celltrion has already allocated 20 billion won ($16.6 million) to develop treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus, Seo said. The company is also planning to increase funding to expedite the research and development (R&D) project, which is typically an 18-month process.

Celltrion has been working on the initiative under the government-led program since last month. Seo said its researchers have been working nonstop in rotational shifts, and added that the company is in constant discussion with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and other related agencies to shorten the approval process for clinical trials.

The biopharmaceutical company has secured blood samples from Covid-19 patients in Korea at Seoul National University Hospital and is in discussions to obtain more from two more hospitals.

The company hopes to carry out clinical trials as a chance to get the new treatment in Korean patients as soon as possible.

Under normal circumstances, initial clinical trials would be limited to several dozens of patients, but Seo said Celltrion will work with the government to expand the clinical trial size and inject its to-be-developed treatment into many more.

During the press event, he also said Celltrion has been working to develop an upgraded diagnostic kit for the novel coronavirus, and hopes to commercialize it within the next three months.

The chairman said the group is aiming to develop a diagnostic solution that can diagnose a patient within 20 minutes, with an accuracy rate high enough to not require secondary testing. The diagnostic kit would be supplied to countries highly infected with the virus, including Korea, Seo added.

And to help meet the high demand for face masks, Seo said Celltrion Group will manufacture up to 500,000 units for use in the country.

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

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