SK Bioscience agrees to produce antigen of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate

By Lim Chang-won Posted : August 14, 2020, 09:14 Updated : August 14, 2020, 09:14

[Courtesy of SK Bioscience]

SEOUL -- SK Bioscience, a cooperation partner for South Korea's state project to develop COVID-19 vaccines, will produce the antigen of a vaccine candidate being developed by Novavax, an American vaccine development company, that would be supplied in South Korea and globally if it proves to be safe and effective through clinical trials.

Novavax is undergoing clinical trials for its vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, which was generally well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera in Phase 1 clinical trial. 

In an online ceremony on August 13, the two companies signed a development and supply agreement. SK Bioscience would initiate the production of the NVX-CoV2373 antigen at its vaccine facility in South Korea in August.

"SK Bioscience shares our sense of urgency to ensure broad and equitable access for our COVID-19 vaccine candidate around the world," Novavax CEO Stanley C. Erck said in a joint statement. Novavax has secured $2 billion in funding for its global coronavirus vaccine program, including up to $388 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

The two companies signed a letter of intent with South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare to work toward broad and equitable access to NVX-CoV2373 for global use and to make it available in South Korea.

"We will cooperate with the government supporting its two-track strategy, developing vaccine in Korea and securing COVID-19 vaccine from a global manufacturer in a short period of time," said SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong. The South Korean company claimed to have secured a candidate for COVID-19 through the protein culture and refining platform of an antigen produced with gene recombination technology.

SK Bioscience would receive $3.6 million from Bill Gates Foundation to find candidate materials for the COVID-19 vaccine. In July, the company signed a contract manufacturing organization (CMO) deal with AstraZeneca PLC, a Swedish-British multinational company. CMO serves other companies in the pharmaceutical industry to provide comprehensive services from development through manufacturing.

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