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S. Korean pharmaceutical companies in vaccine development race Updated: 2021-05-12 16:54:41 KST

As South Korea aims to reach herd immunity through vaccinations by November this year, the country's pharmaceutical firms are also working on developing homegrown Covid-19 vaccines to help fight the virus.
Our Bae Eun-ji has been following this story; she's live in the studio with me.
Eunji, there are roughly 96 COVID-19 vaccine candidates undergoing clinical trials and one-hundred-84 candidates in pre-trial development around the world.
And South Korean firms are also in this race to develop vaccines.
So, how far have South Korean companies got in developing their own vaccines?

Well Connyoung, some domestically-developed vaccines could finish their clinical trials by the end of this year, and begin distribution starting next year.
Currently five domestic companies have got the approval to conduct clinical trials for their vaccine candidates in South Korea.
Of them, two companies are in phase 2 of their clinical trials.
SK Bioscience has two vaccine candidates one of them has finished phase 1 and the other one is currently in both phase 1 and 2.
Another vaccine developer EuBiologics is waiting for its phase 1 trial results aiming to begin phase 2 in June.
And one other company is in phase 1 of its clinical trials.

"We plan to begin phase 3 clinical trials in the second half of this year. If this happens, we plan on getting the conditional approval by the end of this year and distributing the vaccines starting early next year."

SK Bioscience is another company that also aims to begin phase 3 clinical trials in the second half of this year, and start vaccine distribution next year.

It's good to hear that these vaccines may be viable from next year.
There are different types of vaccines and the methods that most people are familiar with are probably the mRNA method used by Pfizer and the viral-vector method used by AstraZeneca.
So what type of vaccine is each company working on?

None of the five local developers are working on mRNA vaccines like those by Pfizer and Moderna.
But, they are working on vaccines similar to those by Novavax and AstraZeneca.
Two companies SK Bioscience and EuBiologics are working on making 'protein subunit vaccines' which is the traditional way of developing vaccines.
This is similar to the technology used by Novavax.
This type of vaccine spurs an immune response in the recipient by injecting a spike protein from the SARS-COV-2 virus, which is the virus that causes COVID-19.
It also adds chemical agents called 'adjuvants' to stimulate a stronger immune response.
Another company called Cellid is developing 'viral-vector vaccines' like the ones developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
This technology uses a harmless virus as a delivery system to trigger the immune system to create antibodies.
The other two companies Genexine and Geneone Life Science are working on DNA vaccines.

Like you said, vaccines may become available starting next year. Will there be high demand when they are actually ready to distribute them?

Yes, it seems there will be, as vaccines are still needed in other countries.

"The U.S. and Europe may have plenty of vaccine supplies but for places like Asia and Africa they still need to secure more vaccines. And with cases of variants of the virus, there is going to be demand."

Also, the chief of KDCA, Jeong Eun-kyeong had said that COVID-19 might not be a virus that can be stopped by getting vaccinated just once or twice but a virus that could break out every year.
If this is the case, it will require an annual vaccination program leading to high demand.

Thank you Eun-ji, for the comprehensive look at South Korea's efforts to develop and rollout vaccines.
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