South Korea’s 1st homegrown Covid-19 vaccine maker underlines global partnership

Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute, SK Bioscience, helped conduct the vaccine’s clinical trials across six countries, including Thailand and New Zealand.

Kan Hyeong-woo

Kan Hyeong-woo

The Korea Herald


SK Bioscience's COVID-19 vaccine SKYCovione (SK Bioscience)

October 4, 2022

SEOUL – As SK Bioscience is poised to contribute to the world’s prolonged battle against the COVID-19 pandemic with its SKYCovione vaccine, the South Korean vaccine maker has underlined the importance of global partnerships in developing the country’s first homemade COVID-19 vaccine.

SK Bioscience joined hands with the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington School of Medicine to develop SKYCovione, a self-assembled nanoparticle vaccine. The development process was also supported by multinational pharmaceutical giant GSK’s pandemic adjuvant. An adjuvant added to a vaccine can improve the immune system’s response to the vaccine.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Program have backed up the funding required for the research and development efforts of SKYCovione, according to SK Bioscience.

The Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute helped conduct the Korean vaccine’s clinical trials across six countries: Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand, Ukraine, the Philippines and South Korea.

“SKYCovione, selected as the first vaccine candidate for the project Wave 2 operated by the CEPI from the beginning of development, is now ready to be distributed to developing countries for equitable vaccine access. We hope to introduce Korea’s technology to the global vaccine market and achieve our global health aspirations,” said Ahn Jae-yong, CEO of SK Bioscience.

As SKYCovione can be stored at temperatures between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius and does not require ultracold supply chain facilities, SK Bioscience said transporting the Korean vaccine will be easier for developing countries.

According to Oxfam and the People’s Vaccine Alliance, two-thirds of countries have not met the target of achieving a 70 percent vaccination rate against COVID-19. They said it will take almost 2 1/2 years until 70 percent of people in the poorest countries are fully vaccinated at the current rate of administration.

The Korean government approved SKYCovione as a booster shot on Sept. 16. In the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s clinical trials, people who had received previously authorized vaccines — AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer — as first and second administrations were given a SKYCovione booster shot. The results showed that their neutralizing antibody responses increased by 11 times against the original coronavirus strain, 52.9 times against the omicron BA.1 variant and 28.3 times against the omicron BA.5 variant.

SK Bioscience has applied for conditional marketing approval with the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the European Medicines Agency. The company also requested for the World Health Organization’s emergency use listing of SKYCovione.

SK Bioscience said it expects to obtain a green light from the two government authorities and the international organization before the end of the year. Once the company receives the WHO’s emergency use listing, SKYCovione will become available for global distribution through the WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility.

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