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Supplier of remdesivir’s API under sudden focus

When demand for facial masks surged, prescient investors immediately set their eyes on nonwoven fabric suppliers who manufacture the ingredients.

Now, as remdesivir has been anointed as the only drug to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an emergency COVID-19 treatment, investors are paying attention to what constitutes the riboneucleic acid drug.

Remdesivir is a nucleoside analogue, or a nucleoside RNA polymerase inhibitor.

If that sounds like alien talk, the FDA explains that remdesivir is an antiviral drug that inhibits viral RNA synthesis or mutation.

The drug was first being developed as an investigational drug for Ebola by US-based Gilead Sciences without fanfare, but after COVID-19 broke out, remdesivir was catapulted to the limelight for showing therapeutic effects against the pandemic.

Here is where Pharmicell comes in.

It is a Korean biotechnology company that purports to have 80 percent stake in the worldwide nucleoside market share.

And investors are adding two and two together to draw a link between Pharmicell and Gilead Sciences.

Pharmicell in April said that it nabbed an extra $1.14 million worth of nucleoside supply deal with US’ ThermoFisher Scientific, setting its own annual record.

US’ ThermoFisher and Germany’s Merck are Pharmicell’s two major clients who process the nucleoside and resupply them to global pharmaceutical firms.

A Pharmicell official told The Korea Herald that they have no means of knowing how Gilead Sciences may be using the nucleoside for remdesivir engineering.

In a press release in April, Pharmicell said that nucleoside sales in 2020 are looking to climb over 10 billion won ($836 million).

Diagnostic reagent manufacturer Macrogen compared nucleoside to Samsung Galaxy S20, saying that nucleosides are difficult to make, and are a specially engineered chain of deoxyribunucleic acid or ribonucleic acid molecules that become main active pharmaceutical ingredient for various virus testing kits, diagnostic reagent and novel gene therapies.

Due to the technologically high threshold and the comparatively low market demand up until the COVID-19 breakout -- not many firms manufacture nuleoside, making Pharmicell one of the few to stand out, said Korea Drug Development Fund’s CEO Muk Hyun-sang.

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