Korean jab maker scouts Asean links

SEOUL: A South Korean company is looking for a business opportunity with partners from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to help develop the regional market for its Covid-19 vaccine.

Korean jab maker scouts Asean links
Thailand General

Korean jab maker scouts Asean links

Region a priority market for company

published : 17 Dec 2022 at 07:00

newspaper section: News

writer: Apinya Wipatayotin

An SK Bioscience staff member shows the SKYCovione vaccine against Covid-19. (Photo: Apinya Wipatayotin)

SEOUL: A South Korean company is looking for a business opportunity with partners from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to help develop the regional market for its Covid-19 vaccine.

"We are eyeing partners in the Asean market which has a combined population of more than 680 million," said Kim Young-suk, head of SK Bioscience's Strategy Department.

Mr Kim said the company is expanding its business into the region by focusing on people's ability to access health security and increase the region's capacity to develop its own vaccines to fight any future pandemics.

Mr Kim was speaking during a recent press tour for an event called "2022 Korea-Asean Cooperation in Health" organised by South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The press tour aimed to create a media network in the health sector between South Korea and Asean, while helping the media industry keep updated on regional vaccine partnerships and future outlooks. Journalists visited associated institutions and met experts from the health sector and government officials.

Mr Kim said the company plans to expand its vaccine production business in the region. It hopes to work with Asean governments which are keen to put the Korean-made vaccine on their list of nationally sanctioned treatments to lower their outlays.

The firm also may work with a company to serve as a regional distributor and later plans to target NGOs to expand this project.

"Asean is our key target region. Right now, we have no plan to provide R&D cooperation to the region. But we are considering building our own plant to increase vaccine security there," Mr Kim added.

SK Bioscience is the country's largest pharmaceutical and vaccine production plant, which has met success in developing its own vaccine to fight Covid-19 under the name SKYCovione.

It is a self-assembled nanoparticle vaccine targeting the receptor-binding domain of the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein for the parent virus Sars-Cov-2. It was jointly developed by the Institute for Protein Design (IPD) at the University of Washington School of Medicine in combination with GSK's pandemic adjuvant.

The research and development of SKYCovione has been supported by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), with the European Union's Horizon 2020 Programme also lending a hand.

In August last year, the country's first vaccine candidate entered Phase III of global clinical trials.

A comparative clinical trial with the control vaccine from AstraZeneca was conducted on 4,037 adults over the age of 18 in South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, New Zealand, Ukraine, and Thailand.

The results showed that it demonstrated superiority over the control vaccine in terms of immunogenicity and safety.

In June, the company won approval for a biological licence from the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

It is now waiting for the green light from the World Health Organization (WHO) for the vaccine's emergency use so it can be included in the COVAX Facility and be shipped to international markets.

Park Yongwook, the head of the company's BIO 1 department, said the vaccine increases the neutralising antibody titles by 33 times -- three times that of AstraZeneca's vaccine, which was used as the control vaccine -- just two weeks after the second dose.

"The vaccine is effective and safe for users. We are now in the process of producing the second generation of Covid-19 vaccine against the Omicron variant, which could be ready within a year and a half.

"We believe in our advanced bio-technology platform that can help speed up the process of producing a next-generation vaccine against any new fever-led virus by one year," Mr Park said.

The company is now conducting heterologous and homologous clinical trials for booster shots of its SKYCovione on adolescents and children to expand the vaccination age group for wider prevention.

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