Korean bio startups explore mRNA vaccine and drug ventures

2021.05.11 14:30:00 | 2021.05.11 14:30:27

Pfizer이미지 확대

Pfizer"s Covid-19 vaccine. [Source: Pool Photo]

Korean biotech companies are joining messenger RNA (mRNA) pharmaceutical business whose market value is expected to grow to $2.12 billion by 2026 from $1.17 billion last year.

The mRNA technology has come under spotlight as it became the basis for Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

The high molecular compound which carries genetic codes of the DNA in the nucleus plays an important role in the synthesis of proteins. An mRNA vaccine can be made in a short time by identifying the genetic information of the virus. Unlike conventional vaccines, it can be synthesized quickly in a lab without culturing viruses or proteins.

Korean biotech firm ST Pharm recently introduced an advanced lipid nanoparticle (LNP) drug delivery system from Genevant Science, securing rights to develop and producing a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine in 12 Asian countries, including South Korea.

The company is also co-developing third-generation LNP which is known to play a key role in the production of mRNA-based drugs. LNP technology is designed to wrap and protect vulnerable mRNA molecules from RNA degrading enzymes in the human body until an antibody is generated after vaccine injection. ST Pharm plans to develop new LNP technology that not only protects mRNA molecules but also activates T cells responsible for the immune system.

GeneOne Life Science has already established an mRNA production center through its Texas-based subsidiary VGIX. The company said it has an mRNA vaccine candidate in addition to an investigational DNA vaccine candidate in its pipeline.

Eyegene has secured cationic liposomal drug delivery system technology, different from LNP technology. Unlike vaccines made with LNP technology that must be stored at -20 to 70 degrees Celsius, a cationic liposome vaccine can be stored at room temperature. Eyegene plans to start clinical trials in June and commercialize its vaccine by next year.

Enzychem Lifesciences also established a subsidiary last month and entered the mRNA vaccine CMO business. The company aims to produce and supply more than 100 million doses of mRNA vaccine by 2022.

By Park Yoon-gyun, Han Jae-beom and Minu Kim

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