SK Bioscience to license in Novavax’ COVID-19 vaccine

21-Jan-2021 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

President Moon Jae-in visited SK Bioscience’s plant in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, Wednesday, which is contract manufacturing the US-based Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The visit comes a year to the day that Korea reported its first case of the coronavirus disease, and followed a video conference the President had with Novavax CEO Stanley Erck.

During their talks Moon discussed ways to improve the supply of the vaccine to Korea via an in-licensing deal for SK Bioscience.

As a contract manufacturer SK Bioscience produces vaccine for Novavax to sell on to customers; as an in-licensing partner it can market the product, and also use production technology to develop its own vaccines.

“After securing COVID-19 vaccines for 56 million people so far, chances are high for us to add more for 20 million people as SK Bioscience and Novavax have been preparing an in-licensing deal,” Moon said, according to Cheong Wa Dae press pool reports.

“This deal will have significance as SK Bioscience will then license in Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine. This will play an important role in expediting Korea’s vaccine development.”

SK Bioscience and Novavax signed a contract development and manufacturing deal in August, though it was unclear how many doses SK Bioscience would be able to produce. In doing so, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, SK Bioscience and Novavax also signed a letter of intent on cooperation for a supply for Korea.

Following an in-license deal, SK Bioscience will produce vaccines of which the government will purchase 20 million doses for domestic inoculations.

Since Novavax has signed contract manufacturing and in-licensing deals with other global firms, SK Bioscience’s rights could be limited to domestic use, according to industry officials. However, they added that the agreement will play a critical role in allowing Korea to become more independent in securing vaccine, as it gives SK Bioscience access to some of the technology behind Novavax’s vaccine.

Novavax’s NVX-CoV2373 is a protein subunit vaccine and has advantages in storage and distribution over mRNA-platform vaccines such as those from Pfiser and Moderna.

Moon also noted that SK Bioscience is contract manufacturing AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, Korea has secured COVID-19 vaccines for 56 million people. The country will be supplied with 20 million doses from AstraZeneca, 20 million from Pfiser, 40 million from Moderna, 20 million from the COVAX Facility and 6 million from Janssen. Except for Janssen’s vaccine, the others require two doses.

Along with the contract manufacturing deals, SK Bioscience is developing its own COVID-19 vaccines. The first, NBP2001, is in a Phase 1 clinical study, and the second, GBP510, has recently won Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approval for Phase 1 and 2 studies.

“If the pandemic does not end in a short term, domestic firms’ vaccine development will provide stable vaccination and vaccine sovereignty,” Moon said. “SK Bioscience is doing its utmost to develop vaccines and if the development progresses as planned we will be able to receive Korean vaccines next year.”

Moon added that SK Group started its vaccine business 20 years ago, this has allowed Korea to have a stable supply of vaccines and to develop its own vaccines.

Meanwhile, as expectations are growing on the company’s growth amid the pandemic, it is preparing an initial public offering, filing documents with the Korea Exchange last month. Given the usual timeline, SK Bioscience is expected to make its debut on the benchmark KOSPI during the first half of the year.


Category: Korea

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