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SK Bioscience to contract manufacture AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Korea

From left: AstraZeneca Korea’s CEO Kim Sang-pyo, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo and SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong hold up the signed MOU at SK Bioscience’s research laboratory in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province. Also attending the ceremony, but not in the picture here, were UK Ambassador to Korea Simon Smith, SK Discovery Vice-Chairman Choi Chang-won. Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca Global, joined via videoconference chat. (SK Bioscience)
From left: AstraZeneca Korea’s CEO Kim Sang-pyo, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo and SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong hold up the signed MOU at SK Bioscience’s research laboratory in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province. Also attending the ceremony, but not in the picture here, were UK Ambassador to Korea Simon Smith, SK Discovery Vice-Chairman Choi Chang-won. Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca Global, joined via videoconference chat. (SK Bioscience)
SK Bioscience, the vaccines business unit of SK Group, signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding with Korea’s Health Ministry and global biopharma AstraZeneca, to contract manufacture the latter’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

AstraZeneca Global CEO Pascal Soriot said that the company considers it vital to establish a global distribution channel that can quickly deliver vaccines across the world, for widespread and fair access.

“SK’s cutting-edge expertise and ability to manufacture large quantities at pace is of global significance. Throughout the pandemic, Korea is emerging as a leader and we are deeply grateful for the government’s support. Going forward I hope that we can further strengthen our collaboration to accelerate broad and equitable access to all those who need it,” Soriot said.

AZD1222 is currently being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Of all the potential COVID-19 vaccines in the World Health Organization’s book, AZD1222 was the first to enter phase 3 clinical trials, which is the final stage human test of a drug before it advances to commercialization.

The AZD1222 will be manufactured in Korea by SK Bioscience scientists at the vaccine manufacturing plant situated in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province.

The contract period is from this month to early next year, and should AstraZeneca’s vaccine development successfully culminate, could lead to an additional manufacturing beyond the currently decided contract term.

The Health Ministry here will support AstraZeneca’s vaccine exports to Korea, as will the Drug Ministry to approve the vaccine’s use here.

The Korean government is assuming the two-track strategy of supporting domestic development of viable vaccines, as well as active imports of foreign-developed vaccines, under the sole aim of securing a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.

SK Bioscience, other than contract manufacturing AstraZeneca’s pipeline, is also developing its own COVID-19 vaccine in a state-driven project.

This is not the first time SK and AstraZeneca are collaborating. The two have longstanding collaborations in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, which includes AstraZeneca’s partnership with SK Biotek on the manufacturing of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients for diabetes medicines.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)
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