KCDC partners with firms on Covid-19 treatment and vaccine

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KCDC partners with firms on Covid-19 treatment and vaccine

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on Thursday announced a partnership with Celltrion and SK Bioscience to develop a Covid-19 treatment and vaccine.

The local disease control authority said it chose Celltrion to help develop a monoclonal antibody treatment for the new coronavirus. It selected SK Bioscience to help develop a preventive vaccine using synthetic antigen technology.

They said Korea National Institute of Health is providing 188 million won ($153,000) for the project with Celltrion, the agency said. It will provide 100 million won for the vaccine development with SK Bioscience this year, including about 12 billion won for research and development projects starting in June.

If the two companies come up with promising drug substances that pass efficacy tests, KCDC said it will also support non-clinical and clinical trials for the substances. For the projects to receive the funding, KCDC said it is setting up a special body for vaccine development that will run until 2029.

Celltrion Group Chairman Seo Jung-jin said in an online press conference Monday that the biopharmaceutical conglomerate plans to start clinical trials for a potential coronavirus treatment as early as mid-July.

SK Bioscience also announced earlier this week that it has started animal experiments for a potential substance for a Covid-19 vaccine. The company plans to start clinical trials for the material as early as September.

The two research projects follow the Korea National Institute of Health’s discussions with academic, research and industry experts last month for better on-site responses to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The two companies were chosen for their experience conducting domestic and international clinical trials, their track record of product approvals and their ability to run large-scale manufacturing facilities, KCDC said.

Also in the Thursday statement, KCDC said it will also partner with local medical institutions and research bodies to conduct additional research and development projects to enhance Korea’s immunology and quarantine capabilities.

The disease control authority says it is also working with Kyungpook National University and the National Medical Center to study what’s needed for patients during clinical trials. It is also collaborating with the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology and the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology to research improvements in diagnostics and treatment.

KCDC is planning to find six more partners in the coming weeks for additional research projects related to the novel coronavirus, for which it has set aside an additional 700 million won in funding.

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