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CureVac may pick Korea as Asian base for COVID vaccine production
2021-06-17

Source: The Korea Economic Daily by Ju-Hyun Lee and Do-Won Lim

German biopharmaceutical company CureVac N.V. may choose South Korea as one of its global production bases for the COVID-19 vaccine following Korean President Moon Jae-in’s request for a vaccine partnership.

President Moon, currently on an official visit to European countries, held a video conference with Franz-Werner Haas, chief executive of the German vaccine maker, in Vienna on Tuesday.

During the online meeting, the president asked him to consider Korea as a vaccine production hub in the Asia-Pacific region, promising to provide full administrative support if CureVac decides to do so.

The CureVac CEO did not give the answer right away, but noted that there are “lots of room for cooperation” given a large number of world-class pharmaceutical companies in Korea, according to the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae.

Both sides also shared the view that the German vaccine maker needs to develop its network with pharmaceutical partners beyond Europe, it said.

CureVac develops therapies based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. The company is also known to be working on a second-generation vaccine for coronavirus variants.

The German company is scheduled to announce the phase three trial results of its vaccine candidate by the end of June.

WORLD’S TOP CMO FACILITIES

Industry watchers say the virtual meeting between President Moon and CureVac CEO Haas has raised expectations among Korean pharmaceutical firms that they could produce COVID-19 vaccine for the German company under a contract manufacturing organization (CMO) scheme.

In Europe, CureVac has consigned the manufacture of its vaccine to other pharmaceutical companies, including France’s Fareva, under CMO contracts.

President Moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have already agreed to cooperate on vaccine development and production.

Korea is already home to the world’s leading contract drug manufacturers, including Samsung Biologics.

Last month, Samsung Biologics Co. said it has signed a CMO deal to manufacture Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine from the second half of this year in Korea.

Samsung Biologics plans to expand its facilities to produce the drug substance (DS) in mRNA COVID-19 vaccines by the first half of 2022.

Under CMO contracts, SK Group affiliate SK Bioscience Co. has already been producing British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine since September 2020. It also inked a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) order for a coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by US-based Novavax last year.

Among local pharma firms equipped with CMO facilities for mRNA vaccines is ST Pharm Co., which completed the construction of an mRNA drug substance production facility last month.

Hanmi Pharmaceutical Co. has the capacity to make up to 1 billion doses of mRNA vaccine at its plant in Pyeongtaek.

GC Pharma Corp., the distributor of Moderna’s vaccine in Korea, is also among potential candidates for the CureVac CMO supply, according to industry officials.

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