The COVID-19 pandemic is giving opportunities for South Korean biotech companies to prove their technological excellence. Their multiple diagnostic reagents have obtained emergency use authorizations from the U.S. FDA and the world’s first COVID-19 antibody drug is expected to come out in South Korea. In addition, South Korean vaccine developers and research institutes such as the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) are accelerating their preparations for clinical vaccine trials.
The authorizations have been obtained by Osang Healthcare, Seegene, SD Biosensor, SeaSun Biomaterials and LabGenomics. This means their COVID-19 diagnostic kits can be supplied across the United States. Also, the South Korean government provided kits for 750,000 tests for the federal government of the United States and Maryland and Colorado received those for 500,000 and 100,000 tests, respectively.
In the meantime, Celltrion is planning to conduct a human clinical trial in July this year. The company recently obtained COVID-19 antibody candidates and began to develop cell lines. It is going to start manufacturing human clinical materials after the development is completed. If its clinical plan goes as scheduled, it can become the world’s foremost COVID-19 antibody drug developer.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety of South Korea recently approved a Phase 2 clinical trial of Bukwang Pharm’s hepatitis B drug Levovir for COVID-19 treatment. The company is planning to release the result of the drug repurposing trial in August.
A non-clinical trial of GX-19, a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, has been in smooth progress by the consortium of Genexine, Binex, the International Vaccine Institute, GenNBio, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and Pohang University of Science and Technology. On May 5, Genexine carried out primate administration and confirmed that GX-19 produced a neutralizing antibody against the coronavirus. GenNBio is going to file for a human clinical trial within this month and Binex, which is in charge of clinical sample production in the consortium, already started manufacturing GX-19 candidate substances for the trial.
Also, the consortium of the KRIBB, HuVet Bio and Optipharm confirmed neutralizing antibody generation in animals. According to the consortium, the antibody was generated at least 128-fold in various animals such as miniature pigs, guinea pigs and rats. It is planning to complete its preclinical trial within this year.