Drug mak­ers make strides in fight­ing deadly diseases

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Nam Hyun-woo namhw@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

Korean phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies are fight­ing deadly viruses such as the coro­n­avirus and HIV to fill the pos­si­ble vac­uum in the global pro­cure­ment mar­ket stem­ming from lock­downs on global drug mak­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to Cell­trion Pharm, a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal unit of biotech group Cell­trion, it will set up a man­u­fac­tur­ing line ex­clu­sively for Cell­trion’s HIV treat­ment CT-G7 at its plant in Cheongju, North Chungcheon­g Prov­ince.

Af­ter set­ting up the new line, the com­pany will op­er­ate the plant around the clock, as well as in­creas­ing the re­search­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing work­forces by 15 per­cent. The de­ci­sion ap­pears to be the com­pany’s strat­egy to ex­ploit a pos­si­ble vac­uum in the global HIV treat­ment pro­cure­ment mar­ket in the near fu­ture, as drug mak­ers in In­dia, which are ma­jor sup­pli­ers of chem­i­cal drugs for the global mar­ket, are un­der lock­down due to the COVID-19 out­break. The com­pany said In­dian phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms’ plant op­er­a­tion rate av­er­aged 30 per­cent.

CT-G7, ear­lier known as CT-G07, is a three-drug-in-one-tablet HIV treat­ment de­vel­oped by Cell­trion, which won a ten­ta­tive ap­proval from the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) in April. The FDA in March con­ducted an on-site in­spec­tion of the Cheongju plant and ob­served no vi­o­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Clin­ton Health Ac­cess Ini­tia­tive, the global HIV treat­ment mar­ket is val­ued at 1.2 tril­lion won ($969.5 mil­lion), and Cell­trion Group be­lieves CT-G7 will oc­cupy at least 10 per­cent of the mar­ket to post 120 bil­lion won in sales an­nu­ally.

Since global pro­cure­ment agen­cies are fo­cus­ing on the sta­ble sup­ply of HIV treat­ments in the wake of the COVID-19 pan­demic, Cell­trion Pharm said it is seek­ing to raise the mar­ket share to 20 per­cent.

Re­cently, Korean phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms are mak­ing strides in the world’s bat­tle against costly and deadly diseases. Their ef­forts to im­prove their pres­ence in the global mar­ket came as a re­sponse to the coun­try’s fast re­cov­ery from the COVID-19 out­break.

Cell­trion is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing an an­ti­body drug stem­ming from cured COVID-19 pa­tients’ blood sam­ples af­ter ear­mark­ing 20 bil­lion won for R&D. With clin­i­cal tests sched­uled for mid-July, Cell­trion Chair­man Seo Jung-jin said the com­pany will pri­or­i­tize speed rather than prof­itabil­ity.

GC Pharma, which is also de­vel­op­ing a blood plasma ther­apy for COVID-19 — GC5131A — re­cently de­cided to pro­vide its ther­apy for free to Korean pa­tients, shoul­der­ing all costs for de­vel­op­ment and dis­tri­bu­tion. “The drug for the un­prece­dented pan­demic should fully serve the pur­pose of pub­lic health­care,” GC Pharma CEO Huh Eun-chul said.

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