SK Bioscience announced on May 18 it will receive US$3.6million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
The company plans to discuss the use of the funds with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which spearheads the research and development on the COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. It is an alliance designed to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious diseases.
According to the company, there is an urgent need for effective and reasonably priced COVID-19 vaccines, the optimal antigenic structure required for the development of vaccines with high immunogenicity and safety has not yet been fully defined.
SK Bioscience plans to collaborate with the world's leading antigen design research institute in the U.S. to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and conduct non-clinical trials using the funding from the Gates Foundation.
The company said it aims to discover several COVID-19 vaccine candidates by using its three existing vaccine platforms.
Cooperation with US antigen design research companies is expected to help the company secure various vaccine candidates with higher immunogenicity.
SK Bioscience is already engaged in a COVID-19 vaccine development project that is funded by the Korean government.
The company believes it would be able to quickly enter clinical trials as it has experiences in developing and commercializing vaccines for influenza, cervical cancer and pediatric enteritis.
"We are pleased to work together with the Gates Foundation once again, following the collaboration in developing vaccines for pediatric enteritis and typhoid," SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong said. "The collaboration with the Gates Foundation is a testament to our technology prowess. We will concentrate all our capabilities on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine."