Back To Top

K-bio firms all out to contain novel coronavirus spread

Experts call for government push to expedite vaccine development

Medicine professors and public health administrators discuss ways to contain novel coronavirus spread in Korea, at Korea Press Foundation in Jung-gu, Seoul, on Wednesday (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
Medicine professors and public health administrators discuss ways to contain novel coronavirus spread in Korea, at Korea Press Foundation in Jung-gu, Seoul, on Wednesday (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
Korean biologics firms are putting their heads together to contain the spread of novel coronavirus, with experts opining that a potential vaccine development would require governmental investment.

The natural market development of a coronavirus vaccine is unlikely given the characteristics of the epidemic, said Lee Jong-koo, professor of family medicine at Seoul National University, speaking at an open debate on Wednesday.

A new vaccine would take more than a year to develop, by which time this novel coronavirus could have dissipated, leaving no patient left to treat and therefore no return on investment for pharmaceutical companies.

“It only seems feasible for a vaccine to be developed with government support and store for future purposes,” said Lee.

Lee was joined by professors and leading experts in the area of biology, virology, microbiome, medicine and public health administration, at a discussion hosted by Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies, at Korea Press Center in central Seoul.

“Currently, we are pushing for preemptive measures, but by the time these measures are enforced it may be late as we are already at the point of needing the measures. Meaning we must look three to four steps ahead,” said Lee Jae-gap, professor at the Infectious Disease Department of Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Heart Hospital.

The KCDC said Wednesday that it has successfully separated the virus from an infected patient.

The virus sample from Korea is named BetaCoV/Korea/KCDC03/2020, and showed 99.5-99.9 percent similarity to the virus found in Wuhan and Gwangdong in China, and France, Germany and Singapore. No meaningful mutation was detected, the KCDC said.

The genetic sequence of this virus is now registered at the World Health Organization’s GISAID for global researchers to access.

In Korea, biologics companies Institut Pasteur Korea, Hanmi Science, ImmuneMed and Macrogen have announced that they are in talks to collaborate on analyzing the genetic sequence of the virus to understand it better.

Korea National Institute of Health said Wednesday it will begin research and development on the new coronavirus vaccine.

On Wednesday, the 17th and 18th confirmed patients of the new coronavirus were announced in Korea, while the second patient was said to have been released from hospital after making dramatic improvement.

“The biggest obstacle in this case is that we don’t know the novel coronavirus well enough,” said Kim Myung-ja, president of KFSTS, “Whether this remains an epidemic, or is headed to becoming a pandemic, is something we need to keep a watch on.”

What is more important is that the lack of information and unchecked rumors are spreading unnecessary panic amongst the public. Economic shock resulting from the coronavirus scare is reverberating across the world, with the issue not restricted to any single region.

“We must do our best to relay correct information from each of our respective positions,” Kim said.

So far, the only confirmed method of prevention is to strictly maintain personal hygiene, such as washing hands regularly and observing coughing etiquette.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)
MOST POPULAR