Research consortium starts vaccine testing on primates

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : March 25, 2020, 14:45 | Updated : March 25, 2020, 14:45

[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- In a bid to find an effective medicine for a new coronavirus earlier than other countries, a state-commissioned research consortium embarked on the first testing of a vaccine candidate on primates. If its safety is proven, clinical trials on humans are to begin in June.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has opened a huge market for vaccines, diagnostic kits and medicines. South Korea has formed a consortium involving researchers and companies such as Genexine, GenNBio, Binex, the state-run Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and the International Vaccine Institute (IVI)

"The primate test was designed to check the safety of GX-19," Genexine, a clinical-stage biotechnology company, said in a statement on Wednesday. GX-19 is a DNA vaccine material for COVID-19. Primates including monkeys and chimpanzees are used for vaccine tests because of their genetic similarity to humans.

Unlike conventional vaccines that inject weakened viruses into the body, DNA vaccines induce immune responses by injecting genes that can produce viral antigens into the body. It requires less time for research and development compared to conventional vaccine types.

Dozens of antiviral drugs have been tested worldwide and medical scientists predicted that humanity has a higher chance of developing a new COVID-19 antiviral drug using different compositions of conventional antiviral medicines rather than trying to research and develop a totally new drug.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Tuesday that it would inject a state fund of four billion won ($3.25 million) into the production of therapeutic materials and research on clinical trials. The project will include quick clinical experiments to check the efficacy of Chloroquine, a medication used to prevent and treat malaria, and Kaletra, a medicine used for treating HIV infection.
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