Korean COVID-19 test kit makers get into bleeding competition overseas

2020.06.25 15:30:00 | 2020.06.25 15:30:33

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Hyped competition has led to oversupply and price undercutting in Korean COVID-19 test kits.

According to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety on Wednesday, as many as 105 COVID-19 kits from 66 manufacturers have so far been passed to export. The figure includes 10 products from nine companies granted emergency use authorization in Korea.

The oversupply whether the products are based on RT-PCR or antigen-antibody has led to price depreciation from 20 to 40 percent from previous months.

Korean COVID-19 test kits compete with more than 1,000 brands worldwide, said a company official, adding that many of latecomers in Korea who have been granted export permission lately will have difficulty joining the market due to low profitability. Price dumping is also worrisome.

In March alone, the average price of these test kits exceeded $10 per unit, but some companies now are settling at prices below $5, another source said.

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Another negative factor is a tightened quality standard for imported test kits in many countries, forcing companies with less competitive strength in technology out of the market. An industry official said COVID-19 test kits once approved with a CE mark could be easily exported to European and Southeast Asian countries, but many countries have introduced their own validation system to sort out products.

Some big players like Seegene are responding to increasing competition by developing advanced products. Seegene will soon release a test kit that can simultaneously detect 18 types of infectious diseases, including influenza, pneumonia, and COVID-19.

Genematrix is launching a test kit to detect COVID-19 and other 18 types of respiratory infections at the same time next month. Sugentech, another Korean IVD test kit maker, plans to add a new fast-acting antigen diagnostic kit and a test kit for neutralizing antibody and quantitative diagnosis to its portfolio consisting mainly of antibody diagnostic test kits.

By Kim Byung-ho and Minu Kim

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