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(LEAD) S. Korea to mass-produce antibody treatment of COVID-19 this month

All News 20:33 September 08, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in lead, paras 2-4, 6; ADDS info on vaccine progress in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to mass-produce an antibody material later this month that can be used to treat the novel coronavirus, health authorities said Tuesday.

The country's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is currently reviewing phase 2/3 clinical tests for the antibody-based treatment, and aims to mass-produce so-called production verification materials in September, according to Kwon Jun-wook, deputy chief at the government's Central Disease Control Headquarters.

The process, to be carried out at a commercial production facility, can later be used for large scale clinical trials, the official said. Kwon said if it receives permission after more tests, the materials can be produced for general commercial use.

Antibody treatment materials are made to enlist the help of immune systems through various means, to fight infection and defeat viruses.

This photo provided by Celltrion Inc. on July 17, 2020, shows bottles containing the company's candidate material for COVID-19 treatment. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Health researchers are currently analyzing results of the phase 1 trial, which was approved by the drug safety ministry on July 17. They also earned approval for the phase 1 study of the treatment in Britain on July 29.

In addition to antibody treatment, Seoul has pushed for efforts to use blood plasma as a way to combat the pandemic. That requires collection of blood from people who have recovered from COVID-19.

For blood plasma-based treatment, health authorities said the drug ministry approved the phase 2 study of its development on Aug. 20, and six medical institutions, including Samsung Medical Center and Asan Medical Center, will verify its effectiveness and safety on COVID-19 patients.

Health authorities added the blood plasma material for the phase 2 trial will begin being produced Tuesday and supply of the substance will be completed in mid-October.

The disease control control tower agency then said while more time is still needed, every effort is being made to come up with a safe vaccine that can be given to people by the fall of 2021.

"By around this time next year all people should have been given a coronavirus vaccine," it said, although the dosage and other related reviews have to be made.

The headquarters expressed confidence that treatment and vaccines are forthcoming, but added that people need to be on guard and take extra safety measures till then.


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