Celltrion vows superfast test kit, cure on COVID-19 within months

2020.03.13 14:24:29 | 2020.03.13 14:24:59

Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin이미지 확대

Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin

South Korea’s top biosimilar developer Celltrion has double down on efforts to develop a super-fast test kit on identifying COVID-19 and a cure for which a clinical trial could be initiated in six months’ time.

Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin said in a YouTube live stream on Thursday the company has a goal of commercializing the kit within three months in cooperation with a local partner and the daily supply could reach up to 100,000 units.

“We are focusing on screening antibodies that meet the sensitivity and accuracy level required for diagnostic kits by using blood samples from COVID-19 survivors,” said Seo, adding he expects to see a prototype in April, clinical evaluation in May and commercial supply after June.

To test COVID-19 infection, a method called quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR) is widely used but it takes a few hours to obtain results although its accuracy is very high. In contrast, a rapid diagnostic kit works fast but its accuracy is low.

Celltrion is planning to combine the advantages of both methods, showing accurate results within 15 to 20 minutes, Seo said.

Regarding the development of a COVID-19 cure, Seo said the company continues researching the efficacy of CT-P38, its investigational antibody to treat the Middle East respiratory syndrome, as well as CT-P27, its multi-antibody drug for influenza tested in a phase 2b study. At the same time, a multi-antibody against virus mutations is being studied based on the analysis of the novel coronavirus.

The clinical trial for the cure will be possible after six months, Seo said, adding the company’s plan is to demonstrate safety in a phase 1 study and both safety and efficacy and side effects in up to 1,000 patients in a phase 3 trial.

Seo said the commercial development of a COVID-19 treatment would cost at least 300 billion won ($245 million).

Celltrion will also provide a total of masks to 500,000 citizens in need in Incheon, Gyeonggi Province, and Cheongju, Chungbuk Province, the two cities where Celltrion facilities are located, Seo said.

By Kim Si-gyun and Minu Kim

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