LG Chem will receive a grant from the U.S. Bill Gates Foundation for vaccine development. LG Chem said on March 11 that it will receive US$33.4 million (37 billion won) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the development of a six-in-one vaccine. This is the second time the company has received funding, following the US$19.5 million (about 22 billion won) grant for the development of the conventional polio vaccine.
LG Chem’s six-in-one vaccine is a vaccine that prevents six diseases with high mortality rates in infants, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, meningitis, and poliomyelitis.
The development of a combo vaccine that acts against a variety of diseases requires a higher level of research and development capacity because researchers must take the immunological interferences between the vaccine stock solutions into account.
There is no six-in-one vaccine that has been certified by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) prequalification (PQ). If LG Chem succeeds in commercializing the convenient combo vaccine, it will greatly improve vaccination rates worldwide. PQ is a system that WHO uses to assess the quality and safety of medicines for the purpose of supplying vaccines to underdeveloped and developing countries and upon its approval, companies earn eligibility to participate in international relief tenders sponsored by UNICEF and PAHO .
Currently, LG Chem is preparing for phase 2 clinical trials of the six-in-one vaccine. The funding will be used to expand vaccine production facilities for overseas clinical trials and to supply vaccines worldwide through international relief tender organizations, such as UNICEF, after 2023.
LG Chem was able to receive the Bill Gates grant because its technological prowess has been already proved in the polio vaccine grant in 2017, which the company received for recognition of its work on inactivated polio vaccine development since 2014. WHO strongly encourages the use of inactivated polio vaccine because it has no risk of side effect. And yet, no company was developing it because it is difficult to produce. It was also difficult to secure production facilities that meet international standards.
The combo polio vaccine is currently in phase 3 of clinical trials and is expected to be commercialized in 2021. It will contribute greatly to elimination of worldwide polio vaccine supply crisis.
Meanwhile, LG Chem has developed Korea’s first genetically recombinant hepatitis B vaccine called Euvax in 1996 and has been supplying it to more than 200 million infants in 80 countries around the world through UNICEF tender for 20 years. In addition, five-in-one combo vaccine called Eupenta developed in 2016 has contributed to the prevention of diseases of about 30 million infants and young children around the world through UNICEF's regular tender from 2017 to 2019.