Politics

S. Korea begins 1st clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine

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The Korean government is aiming to develop treatments for COVID-19 within this year and vaccines by next year, according to the health ministry outline on the COVID-19 timetable and systematic backup on the bio industry.

The government has gained an additional budget of more than 100 billion won ($82 million) to back clinal trials of treatments and vaccines in the second half of this year.

New molecules formulated with convalescent plasma, antibodies, or existing therapies are being tested as a potential cure for COVID-19. Of these, a plasma-based regimen is the closest to commercial production. It uses immune protein and antibody-rich blood from patients who recovered from COVID-19. Currently, GC Pharma is developing this type of treatment with the Korea National Institute of Health (KNIH). The government is supporting clinical trials of the drug to complete commercial development within this year.

But one barrier to this is to obtain a sufficient plasma donor population. The industry says at least 100 donors should come forward, but only 12 have made their commitments among some 10,000 convalescent patients in Korea.

Another regimen being developed based on ambulatory blood is an antibody-drug. Celltrion, the KNIH, and the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) are working on a preclinical study with a goal for completion next year. Some ten existing therapies are approved for a clinical trial to treat COVID-19 patients in Korea. The government has a goal to complete clinical trials for three products this year.

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