Hanmi partners with domestic company to promote exports of saliva-based rapid antigen kits

By Lim Chang-won Posted : March 4, 2022, 16:14 Updated : March 4, 2022, 16:14

[Courtesy of Hanmi Pharmaceutical ]

SEOUL -- Hanmi Pharmaceutical, a major drugmaker in South Korea, has partnered with  PHC, a domestic bio company that focuses on in vitro diagnosis and digital healthcare business, to promote exports of COVID-19 self-testing kits, including a rapid antigen kit that use saliva as samples to acquire rapid results. 

Hanmi is in charge of product planning, sales, marketing, and local licensing for a neutralizing antibody kit using blood samples and two rapid antigen kits based on a nasopharyngeal swab and saliva, respectively, which were produced by PHC.  

"We will do our best to successfully launch it in foreign countries such as the United States by utilizing our global network and various licensing know-how," Hanmi CEO Kwon Se-chang said in a statement on March 4. Hanmi has introduced an antigen test kit to acquire results in 30 minutes by dropping samples taken from the nasal cavity to the kit like pregnancy diagnosis.  

PHC's saliva antigen diagnosis kit with a purported sensitivity of 95.8 percent has been approved by Australia's medicine and therapeutic regulatory agency, Hanmi said, adding the two companies would push for the U.S. release of saliva-based rapid antigen kits as soon as possible.

"We will prove our excellent product competitiveness in the global market through the global network of Hanmi Pharmaceutical and actively promote the global expansion of various in vitro diagnostic products," PHC CEO Choi In-hwan was quoted as saying.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) has trusted nasopharyngeal swabs for the real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method that amplifies specific DNA samples as the most reliable and accurate method. 

For quick sampling, KCDC has eased regulations to approve the use of antigen test kits at home or statge-designated screen centers and health clinics as the highly transmissible omicron variant sent South Korea's daily coronavirus cases exceeding 260,000 on March 4. Salaiva-based rapid test kits has yet to be introduced in South Korea.  

The explosive increase in the number of COVID-19 infections has led researchers and health officials to seek more accurate test methods. Currently, only those who received positive results from quick antigen tests receive PCR tests to ease the workload of test labs. The medical community cast doubt over the accuracy of antigen test kits.
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