Do with treatments what we did with testing, Moon tells Korea

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Do with treatments what we did with testing, Moon tells Korea

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President Moon Jae-in, right, is briefed Thursday at Institut Pasteur Korea in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, during his visit to the research institute that has been working on developing treatment and vaccine options for the novel coronavirus. [YONHAP]

President Moon Jae-in promised funding and regulatory breaks to help Korea develop treatments and vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

During a meeting Thursday at Institut Pasteur Korea in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, with officials from research institutions, hospitals and biopharmaceutical companies, Moon asked participants to take the lead in overcoming the pandemic with collective efforts and accelerate treatment and vaccine development.

Institut Pasteur Korea is one of around 20 companies and institutions that have started research and development (R&D) efforts related to therapies and vaccines for the coronavirus.

“Like how we became a model for containing the virus, I hope this country can provide courage and confidence to citizens and provide hope to our weakened economy by staying at the forefront by developing treatments and vaccine,” Moon said.

“For safe and effective treatments and vaccines to be developed, we need collaborative efforts among scientists, research institutions, companies, hospitals and the government.”

Countries globally have been looking to Korea for its expertise and experience in battling the outbreak, where it paired swift and extensive testing with transparent dissemination of information, as the world struggles to fight the global pandemic.

During the meeting, Moon said the government will shorten approval processes for relevant efforts and increase the commitment to R&D.

For that initiative, the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of Health and Welfare are supplying emergency research funds for companies and research institutions to quickly secure treatment options through the repurposing of existing drugs, the development of antiviral drugs and the research of blood plasma treatments.

The two ministries also vowed additional funds for companies to conduct clinical trials for drug candidates that show efficacy in treating Covid-19.

The government is opening more research facilities for the private sector to use in drug development.

As for approval timelines, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it will cut the clinical trial application review time for treatment options. In a statement, the ministry promised to cut the usual process of 30 days to just one day if needed.

The Drug Safety Ministry is also allowing patients with mild cases of Covid-19 under treatment to be included in clinical trials while expediting approvals for Covid-19 treatment-designated hospitals.

Moon said Korea has already agreed with major Group of 20 countries to share data and combine efforts in combating the pandemic. The president added that the country will actively participate in collaborative initiatives led by international health authorities and the United Nations.

The government said it is establishing research centers in other countries to leverage local drug development efforts. The Science Ministry said it is working to establish a research center on infectious diseases in Asia and later to do the same in Europe and Africa.

The ministries added they will work to combine infectious disease research bodies in the country so they can pool efforts, resources and facilities. The government plans to open a vaccine support center in October and establish a supportive body in July.

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

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