Moon pledges extra support for firms pursuing Covid cures, vaccines

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Moon pledges extra support for firms pursuing Covid cures, vaccines

President Moon Jae-in looks into a microscope at a laboratory in SK Bioscience's research institute in Seongnam, Gyeonggi on Thursday. [YONHAP]

President Moon Jae-in looks into a microscope at a laboratory in SK Bioscience's research institute in Seongnam, Gyeonggi on Thursday. [YONHAP]

 
President Moon Jae-in on Thursday pledged the government’s full support of the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to develop a vaccine and cure for Covid-19.  
 
“Even if other countries develop a vaccine and cure first and we start importing them, we must continue efforts to develop our own vaccine and treatments,” Moon said during a visit to SK Bioscience's research laboratory in Gyeonggi. “That will help us accumulate expertise and lower the prices [of vaccines and treatments] as we had experienced during the novel influenza virus pandemic" in 2009.
 
Because developing a vaccine and cure is a high-risk project that requires time and enormous investments by pharmaceutical firms, the government has provided 210 billion won ($183 million) to the industry to help with development and clinical trials, Moon noted.
 
“We allocated another 260 billion won for next year’s budget, up by 19 percent from that of this year,” he said.  
 
Moon hosted a discussion session with SK Chairman Chey Tae-won and Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin, as well as with medical experts and government officials. Six researchers from four pharmaceutical companies currently working on projects to develop vaccines and cures also attended the event.
 
Moon also assured them that clinical trials will be supported by the government. The state-run network of major hospitals around the country will cooperate with companies to recruit clinical trial participants.
 
Before the discussion session, Moon also toured the research laboratories and listened to a briefing detailing SK Bioscience’s progress in developing the vaccine.  
 
On Oct. 7, SK Bioscience, a pharmaceutical unit under SK Group, applied for approval for Phase 1 clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine.  
 
The company has also been cooperating with global companies such as AstraZeneca and Novavax to produce their vaccine materials. If the global firms succeed in developing an effective vaccine, SK Bioscience’s manufacturing facility will be used for mass production, and some of the products will be supplied to Korea.  
 
The firm is also carrying out a separate vaccine development project in cooperation with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  
 
According to the Blue House, two other companies — Genexine and GeneOne Life Science — are also developing vaccines.  
 
Two companies are currently developing cures. Celltrion is working on antibody treatments and Green Cross is developing a Covid-19 blood plasma treatment.  
 
During the discussion session, National Institute of Health head Kwon Jun-wook said he sees progress in vaccine development.
 
“Our goal is to complete the development and administrate the vaccine as early as the second half of next year,” he said.  
 
He also said the industry is making progress toward developing cures.
 
“We are working to develop and commercialize plasma treatment before the end of this year and antibody treatment early next year,” he said.  
 
BY SER MYO-JA   [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]  
 
 

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