SEOUL -- Genexine, a clinical-stage biotechnology company in South Korea, joined hands with a domestic partner to develop hybrid vaccine technology that complements the shortcomings of DNA and messenger RNA vaccines which are in use worldwide to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus is studded with proteins that it uses to enter human cells. Spike proteins make a tempting target for potential vaccines and treatments. DNA vaccines transfect a specific antigen-coding DNA sequence onto the cells of an immunized species, while mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response for the production of antibodies.
DNA vaccines are safer than mRNA vaccines but there is a disadvantage that raw material inputs are higher. The advantages of RNA vaccines include production speed and lower cost, but they may elicit an unintended immune reaction, and mRNA vaccines can be easily broken by small shocks, making them difficult to transport and store.
Genexine teamed up with SL Vaxigen to apply mRNA's replication and amplification system to a DNA vaccine platform. The hybrid technology produces enough antigen proteins with a small amount of a DNA vaccine. Genexine will try to apply the hybrid technology to its recombinant DNA vaccine candidate, GX-19N, which is currently under development.
South Korea has approved clinical trials for three DNA vaccines, three recombinant vaccines and one viral vector vaccine. Five companies including SK Bioscience aims to carry out final-stage clinical trials, starting in the second half of 2021. "We will try to visualize the results early through all-out government support for Phase III vaccine clinical trials in the second half," said Kang Do-tae, second vice minister of health and welfare.
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