The government aims to develop a vaccine in the second half of next year. Researchers are testing one vaccine for synthetic antigen using protein and two vaccines using DNA.
"By combining the capabilities of the government and the private sector, we will help secure home-made treatments within the year, secure vaccines next year, and secure global market competitiveness for quarantine devices in 2022 sequentially," Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said after a meeting of health officials and experts.
For a short-term task, GC Pharma, a biotech company, has been involved in the development of GC5131A, an immunoglobulin drug based on plasma containing antibodies. The company is ready to carry out clinical trials for test production, but it's not easy to acquire a good deal of clean and appropriate blood. Plasma treatment is different from plasma therapy involving the infusions of blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors to patients.
The lack of blood for plasma treatment was the paradoxical outcome of South Korea's quick and effective response to COVID-19. Since the first patient was detected in late January, 273 people have been killed out of 11,590 patients as of June 2. Some 850 people are still under treatment. Research into plasma treatment began in April.
South Korean researchers have been involved in quick experiments to check the efficacy of various drugs including remdesivir, an antiviral medication developed by Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola virus disease, and nafamostat mesylate, a drug used to treat acute pancreatitis.
Remdesivi was approved as a specific treatment for COVID-19 in South Korea, but researchers paid attention to nafamostat mesylate selected by Institut Pasteur Korea, an infectious disease-focused research institute, as the "most potent" drug candidate in treating COVID-19 patients as it showed an antiviral effect "hundreds of times" higher than remdesivir. Clinical trials are under way in a state-sponsored project.
The COVID-19 pandemic has opened a huge market for vaccines, diagnostic kits and medication. Many medical scientists have predicted that humanity has a higher chance of developing a COVID-19 antiviral drug using different compositions of conventional antiviral medicines rather than trying to research and develop a totally new drug.
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