SK Bioscience receives $140 million CEPI fund to develop mRNA vaccine platform

By Lim Chang-won Posted : October 25, 2022, 15:43 Updated : October 25, 2022, 15:43

[Courtesy of SK Bioscience ]

SEOUL -- SK Bioscience, the developer of South Korea's first homemade COVID-19 vaccine, will receive a new research fund of up to $140 million from an international foundation, which finances vaccine research projects, to push for the development of a messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine with the aim of establishing a research and development system that can prevent existing or unknown viruses.

SK Bioscience said it has been selected by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for the development of a new RNA vaccine platform for new endemic diseases and vaccine library to quickly respond to "disease-X" and solve the imbalance in vaccine supply. Disease X is the mysterious name given to the very serious threat that unknown viruses pose to human health.

For its first mission, SK Bioscience will use the Japanese encephalitis virus and the Lassa fever virus to study the mRNA vaccine platform. Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus. Of $140 million from CEPI, $40 million will be used for first and second-stage clinical trials for two mRNA vaccine platform research tasks and $100 million for phase 3 clinical trials.

SK Bioscience said it has reached an agreement with CEPI to expand its partnership and develop various vaccines based on the mRNA platform. The development of South Korea's first homemade COVID-19 vaccine was funded by CEPI, which has launched a Wave 2 project to discover new vaccines with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

SK Bioscience aims to use the mRNA platform to strengthen existing pipelines and apply them to new pipelines. mRNA is a transient intermediator between genes and proteins. It has emerged as a new category of therapeutic agent to prevent and treat various diseases. DNA vaccines transfect a specific antigen-coding DNA sequence onto the cells of an immunized species, while mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response for the production of antibodies. DNA vaccines are safer but there is a disadvantage that raw material inputs are higher. 

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