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Exclusive-S.Korea in talks with mRNA vaccine producers to make up to 1 billion doses – official government By Reuters

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© Reuters. PHOTO FILE: South Korean seniors receive their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination center in Seoul, Korea on April 1, 2021. Chung Sung-Jun / Pool via REUTERS

From Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea discusses mRNA vaccine manufacturers Pfizer (NYSE 🙂 and Modern (NASDAQ 🙂 to produce COVID-19 blows in the country and is ready to offer the capacity to make up to 1 billion doses immediately, said a senior government official.

The plan, if agreed, would help alleviate the tight global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly in Asia which is delaying North America and Europe in vaccine development, and putting South Korea behind it. a step closer to its ambition to become a major vaccine manufacturing center.

South Korea has already tried to locally produce three coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca / Oxford University, Novavax (NASDAQ :), and Russia. It also has a vaccine bottling and packaging deal with Moderna.

“We have had frequent discussions with major pharmaceutical companies to produce mRNA vaccines,” Lee Kang-ho, director general for the committee of the global vaccine center under South Korea’s health minister, told Reuters.

“There are only a few mRNA vaccine developers – Pfizer, Moderna, CureVac and BioNTech. So there is a limit to how much they can produce to meet global demand … South Korea is keen to help by offering its facilities and skilled human resources, ”Lee said.

It is not immediately clear how far these negotiations are going and if and when an agreement will be reached.

BioNTech declined to comment, Moderna and CureVac did not respond to Reuters’ comments.

A Pfizer spokesman said the company is making efforts to expand its COVID-19 vaccine supply chain but added “we have nothing specific to announce at this time”.

Lee declined to call local vaccine producers who have the capacity to produce mRNA vaccines immediately, but a government source said they include Hanmi Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. and Quratis Co. Ltd.

Hanmi confirmed that he has a great capacity reserved for him Sanofi (NASDAQ 🙂 The diabetes drug and can be used for the production of COVID-19 vaccines once the Sanofi project is set up.

“We have this facility available now because our clinical trial (with Sanofi) was interrupted in the middle of last year,” Kim Soo-jin, senior vice president of Hanmi, told Reuters.

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“It’s very timely that we have a GMP structure, completely ready, available at the top,” he said, referring to good manufacturing practices.

Quratis, which makes a vaccine against tuberculosis, said its new factory built last year can now be used for the production of mRNA vaccines.

Shares in Hanmi canceled early losses and rose nearly 4% on Monday after the Reuters report.

COLLABORATION WITH WHO

South Korea has intensified its efforts to produce more vaccines since U.S. President Joe Biden agreed in May with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on a full partnership on COVID-19 vaccines.

Lee said his team has frequent videoconferences with vaccine manufacturers and the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters that the organization “talks with South Korea and other countries,” but did not elaborate.

The WHO said last month that it will set up a hub in South Africa to manufacture mRNA vaccines in 9-12 months that will give companies in poor and middle-income countries the expertise and licenses to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

Lee said mRNA vaccine manufacturers may be reluctant to share their technology, but may take advantage of South Korea’s raw material suppliers to address a global shortage of ingredients such as lipids, nucleotides and capping reagents.

“They are able to manufacture and develop such raw materials to help vaccine producers … and the South Korean government is committed to providing all the necessary support including financial and administrative assistance.”

Lee said the country also has a capacity for at least another 500 million doses of filled and finished vaccines outside of the agreement Moderna announced with Samsung (KS 🙂 BioLogics in May.




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