State research body selects two firms for development of vaccine and medicine

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : March 26, 2020, 14:23 | Updated : March 26, 2020, 14:23

[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- The research body of South Korea's state health agency officially selected two major biotech companies, SK Bioscience and Celltrion, as cooperation partners for its project to develop preventive vaccines and medicine for the treatment of patients infected with a new coronavirus.

The Korea National Institute of Health said it would support nonclinical and clinical trials when candidate materials with proven efficacy are selected.

Celltrion will develop monoclonal antibody treatment by analyzing and evaluating antibodies in the blood of a cured patient to screen only antibodies that can neutralize the virus. SK Bioscience will use synthetic antigen (sub unit) technology to develop a vaccine that can be produced by synthesizing only some protein of the pathogen that can induce immune responses with gene recombination technology.

Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin said on March 19 that his company has secured candidates for antibody treatment in the blood of patients. A lab experiment is under way to ensure that antibodies can neutralize the virus, he said, predicting that antibodies can be administered to people by the end of July at the latest.

SK Bioscience, a bio unit of South Korea's SK Group, claimed to have secured a candidate for COVID-19 through the protein culture and refining platform of an antigen produced with gene recombination technology. As it has higher safety than other vaccines, the company thinks clinical testing is possible in September if it is found to be effective in an experiment on animals.

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