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South Korean Biotech Firms Forge Ahead in COVID-19 Treatments and Vaccines

Photo by RephiLe water / Unsplash

South Korea's biotech sector is making significant strides in the global fight against COVID-19, with leading companies such as Celltrion and SK Bioscience advancing the development of antibody treatments and vaccines.

These breakthroughs could position South Korea as a leader in the fight against the pandemic.

Celltrion (KRX: 068270) recently completed production of its COVID-19 antibody treatment, CT-P59 (component: regdanvimab), for 100,000 citizens.

Following the interim results of the global Phase II clinical trial, the company plans to apply for conditional approval.

If approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approves, Celltrion would become the third biotech company to develop antibody therapeutics after Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) and Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY).

The global Phase II clinical trial enrolled 327 patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 in Romania, South Korea, Spain, and the United States.

The safety and efficacy of CT-P59 will be determined through data analysis, and a global Phase III clinical trial will be initiated in more than ten countries.

Once approved, Celltrion aims to produce up to 1.5 to 2 million treatments annually.

In the vaccine manufacturing race, SK Bioscience, a subsidiary of SK Chemical (KRX: 285130), has signed a CDMO agreement with Novavax (NASDAQ: NVAX) and a CMO agreement with AstraZeneca (LON: AZN) for AZD1222.

Production is underway at SK Bioscience's facility in Andong, South Korea.

In a letter to President Moon Jae-In in July, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates praised South Korea's leadership in anti-virus quarantine measures and private-sector vaccine development.

As industries such as travel adapt their business models to the COVID-19 era, the advances made by South Korean biotech companies have the potential to reshape the global pandemic response landscape.