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EXCLUSIVE S.Korea in talks with mRNA vaccine makers to make as much as 1 bln doses -govt official

SEOUL, July 5 (Reuters) – South Korea is in talks with mRNA vaccine makers together with Pfizer (PFE.N) and Moderna (MRNA.O) to provide COVID-19 pictures within the nation and is able to provide the capability to make as much as 1 billion doses instantly, a senior authorities official mentioned.

The plan, if agreed, would assist ease tight international provide of COVID-19 vaccines, significantly in Asia which lags North America and Europe in vaccine rollouts, and put South Korea a step nearer to its ambition to develop into a serious vaccine manufacturing centre.

South Korea already has offers to domestically produce three coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca (AZN.L)/Oxford College, Novavax (NVAX.O), and Russia. It additionally has a vaccine bottling and packaging cope with Moderna.

“We have been holding frequent talks with huge pharmaceutical firms to provide mRNA vaccines,” Lee Kang-ho, director common for the worldwide vaccine hub committee below South Korea’s well being ministry, informed Reuters in an interview.

“There are only some mRNA vaccine builders – Pfizer, Moderna, CureVac and BioNTech. Thus there is a restrict to how a lot they’ll produce to fulfill international demand… South Korea is eager to assist by providing its amenities and expert human assets,” Lee mentioned.

It is not instantly clear how superior these talks are and whether or not and when a deal will likely be agreed.

BioNTech (22UAy.DE) declined to remark, Moderna and CureVac (5CV.DE) didn’t reply to Reuters’ requests for feedback.

A Pfizer spokesperson mentioned the corporate is making efforts to boost its COVID-19 vaccine provide chain however added “we do not need something particular to announce right now.”

Lee declined to call native vaccine makers which have the capability to provide mRNA vaccines instantly, however a authorities supply mentioned they embrace Hanmi Prescribed drugs Co Ltd (128940.KS) and Quratis Co Ltd.

Hanmi confirmed that it has an enormous capability reserved for Sanofi’s (SASY.PA) diabetes drug and it may be used for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing because the Sanofi undertaking has stalled.

“We occur to have this facility accessible proper now as a result of our medical trial (with Sanofi) was discontinued in the course of final yr,” Kim Soo-jin, senior vice chairman of Hanmi, informed Reuters.

South Korean senior residents obtain their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus illness (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination centre in Seoul, South Korea April 1, 2021. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool by way of REUTERS

“It’s very well timed that we now have a completely prepared, GMP, state-of-the-art facility accessible,” she mentioned, referring to good manufacturing apply.

Quratis, which makes a tuberculosis vaccine, mentioned its new manufacturing facility constructed final yr can now be used for mRNA vaccine manufacturing.

Shares in Hanmi erased early losses and rose practically 7% on Monday after the Reuters report, and its high shareholder Hanmi Science (008930.KS) jumped 10.3%.

COLLABORATION WITH WHO

South Korea has stepped up its effort to provide extra vaccines since U.S. President Joe Biden in Could agreed with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on a complete partnership on COVID-19 vaccines. learn extra

Lee mentioned his crew is having frequent video convention calls with the vaccine makers and the World Well being Group (WHO).

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic informed Reuters the organisation is “speaking with South Korea and different international locations,” however didn’t elaborate.

The WHO mentioned final month it is going to arrange a hub in South Africa to fabricate mRNA vaccines inside 9-12 months that may give firms from poor and middle-income international locations the know-how and licenses to provide COVID-19 vaccines. learn extra

Lee mentioned mRNA vaccine makers could also be reluctant to share their expertise, however they’ll benefit from South Korea’s uncooked materials suppliers to handle a worldwide scarcity of such substances as lipids, nucleotides and capping reagents.

“They’re able to manufacturing and creating such uncooked supplies to assist vaccine makers… and the South Korean authorities is dedicated to supply all crucial help together with monetary and administrative help.”

Lee mentioned the nation additionally has a capability for at the least one other 500 million doses of fill-and-finish vaccines other than the deal Moderna introduced with Samsung BioLogics (207940.KS) in Could.

South Korea has offers to purchase 106 million doses of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to cowl full vaccination of its inhabitants of 52 million this yr. The federal government mentioned final week it could buy extra mRNA pictures to make use of them as a booster shot subsequent yr. learn extra

Reporting by Sangmi Cha in Seoul; Extra reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Michael Erman in New York and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Enhancing by Miyoung Kim, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Louise Heavens

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Rules.

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