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SK Bioscience to contract manufacture Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine

SK Bioscience and Novavax sign a letter of intent at SK Bioscience’s research laboratory in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo (left) shake hands with SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong, with Novavax CEO Stanley Erck present via online conference call. (SK Bioscience)
SK Bioscience and Novavax sign a letter of intent at SK Bioscience’s research laboratory in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo (left) shake hands with SK Bioscience CEO Ahn Jae-yong, with Novavax CEO Stanley Erck present via online conference call. (SK Bioscience)
SK Bioscience will contract develop and manufacture American biotechnology firm Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, the company said Thursday.

Through a trilateral agreement, SK Bioscience, Novavax and Korea’s Ministry of Healthcare will collaborate to quickly and stably produce the vaccine; support equitable global distribution; and improve public healthcare in Korea through efforts to secure supply.

SK Bioscience, a vaccine-specialized spin-off of SK Chemical, recently rose in global recognition after signing a CMO deal with AstraZeneca for the latter’s COVID-19 vaccine set to begin clinical phase 3 trial in the US within August.

Separately, SK Bioscience is conducting animal tests to develop a coronavirus vaccine platform that will help prepare Korea for future outbreaks of a similar pandemic. The company has commercialized independently developed cell-derived flu vaccines, as well as shingles and chickenpox vaccines.

With Novavax, SK Bioscience will help develop the later stage of NVX-CoV2373’s antigen and manufacture the raw vaccine for global distribution.

The manufacturing will take place at SK Bioscience’s “L House” vaccine plant in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, which recently enlarged its production capacity by three times from the previous 150 million doses.

In June, SK Bioscience agreed with the global philanthropic organization Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to reserve a portion of its drug substance production facility at L House for CEPI-backed COVID-19 vaccine projects.

Novavax is one of such companies, having received $388 million from CEPI for research and development of COVID-19 vaccine.

NVX-CoV2373 is a vaccine candidate engineered from the COVID-19 spike protein. Novavax applied its recombinant nanoparticle technology to generate antigen derived from the SARS CoV-2 virus, and enhanced the vaccine’s immune response trigger using its patented Matrix-M adjuvant.

NVX-CoV2373 is currently undergoing clinical phase 2 trial, and plans to enter clinical phase 3 trial in October at the earliest.

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