South Korean pharmaceutical companies have joined the global race to develop vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus, and several of them have received approval for clinical trials from the country's drug safety agency.
Among the front-runners is Celltrion Inc.'s antiviral antibody treatment candidate called CT-P59 that is currently undergoing phase two and three trials both at home and abroad.
Celltrion said it has completed phase one clinical trials on 32 healthy adults in the country and has not found any abnormal case.
The company is currently conducting phase two trials on around
300 people with mild and severe symptoms of the virus, which will allow researchers to better check CT-P59's efficacy against COVID-19 and its overall safety.
Phase three, involving around 720 people, will be carried out to see if the candidate material is actually effective against viral infections, according to the pharmaceutical giant.
Celltrion said that besides South Korea, it has requested clinical trials of CT-P59 in the United States, Romania and three other countries as part of its ongoing effort to find viable treatment materials to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Small drug firm Bioneer Corp. is also in the process of developing a COVID-19 vaccine, with the aim of conducting clinical trials early next year.
The drug is a type of RNA treatment that directly attacks the genome of the COVID-19 virus and dismantles it, company officials said.
SK Bioscience Co., a vaccine unit of South Korea's SK Group, is considered one of the front-runners in developing a safe and effective vaccine against the new coronavirus.
The company, which currently receives government funding, is in the process of vaccine development, with a plan to start phase one clinical trials in early October.
The company has also recently inked deals to work together with British-Swedish bio giant AstraZeneca Plc. to produce vaccines once they are ready.
The government earlier announced that it will spend a total of 94 billion won ($80.3 million) this year to help local firms develop homegrown vaccines and treatment drugs
The government also plans to set aside 260.4 billion won next year to develop vaccines and treatment drugs against the new coronavirus.
Currently, clinical trials of 15 treatment drugs and one vaccine are under way in the country, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. (Yonhap)