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Celltrion eyes COVID-19 vaccine development

Feb 19, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Celltrion's COVID-19 treatment Regkirona 


South Korea-based Celltrion Inc. has alluded to the possibility of developing a COVID-19 vaccine on the grounds that securing a vaccine is essential to ending the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Celltrion held an online media roundtable on Feb. 18, the day its COVID-19 treatment Regkirona debuted on the market. Some 151 vials of Regkirona were supplied to four medical institutions.

During the roundtable, Celltrion's founder and honorary chairman Seo Jung-jin identified diagnosis, treatment and vaccine as the three key factors required to terminate the global virus.

“We already have a strong diagnosis system and we’ve secured autonomy for the virus treatment via Regkirona's conditional approval,” said Seo.

“The only remaining work for us is vaccines, as we are entirely dependent on overseas supply. If we want to put out a fire, we can’t chase it -- instead, we need to build a firewall,” Seo said, adding that Celltrion is considering tapping into the vaccine development market.

But some industry watchers say it may not be easy for Celltrion to begin vaccine development considering the company is late to the game and the challenge to secure production facilities. Currently, the company's facilities are completely occupied producing biosimilar and COVID-19 treatments.

DEVELOPING TREATMENT FOR COVID-19 VARIANTS

Celltrion is currently developing treatment for the COVID-19 variants that have emerged in the UK and South Africa. 

"From a total of 38 potent neutralizing antibodies, candidate No. 32 produced neutralizing potency against strains from the UK and South Africa," said Kwon Ki-sung, the head of research and development at Celltrion. Kwon added that the clinical trials will be completed in six months.

Meanwhile, Seo strongly rebutted criticism that Regkirona's clinical trial results lack statistical significance. According to Seo, it is no mere coincidence that 300 clinical trial participants display virus reduction and a speedier recovery time.

Earlier, Celltrion announced after the second phase of clinical trials that the treatment reduced the recovery period by five to six days for a patient with pneumonia symptoms. It also showed that the treatment lessened the probability of a mild case evolving into a serious case by over 50 percent.

The Korean biosimilar maker expects criticism over its COVID-19 treatment to fade once results from the third phase of clinical trials are released.

"We've administered the treatment to 150 patients in the third phase of the clinical trials. We will have detailed data in five months," Seo said.


Write to Woo-sub Kim at duter@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

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