S. Korea emerges as major global manufacturing hub for Covid-19 treatments

2022.01.21 13:35:52

Molnupiravir. [Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

Molnupiravir. [Photo by Yonhap]

Domestic pharmaceutical companies have proved their manufacturing prowess to the world after they successfully won consignment production orders for oral Covid-19 medicines treatment on top of Covid-19 vaccines and antibody treatments.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced on Thursday that Hanmi Pharmaceutical, Celltrion Inc., and Dongbang FTL are picked by the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) to produce the generic version of Lagevrio (or molnupiravir) and supply them to 105 low-income countries. The locally produced generic treatments are not for use in Korea.

Lagevrio, an oral antiviral Covid-19 treatment developed by Merck Pharmaceutical (MSD) and Ridgeback Therapeutics, has been reported to cut the hospitalization rate in half among patients with early signs of Covid-19.

Under the agreements, Hanmi Pharmaceutical will produce both the drug substance (DS) and the finished product for Lagevrio copycat drugs. Celltrion’s drug development affiliate Celltrion Pharm will develop the generic versions of Lagevrio within this year and produce the finished product. Its marketing sibling Celltrion Heathcare will be in charge of overseas sale. Dongbang FTL will produce the drug substance only.

The latest deals prove the local pharmaceutical companies’ outstanding capabilities in drug quality management and production technology, the ministry said.

According to the MPP on Thursday, total 27 generic manufacturing companies have signed agreements with it for the production of molnupiravir and its supply to 105 low- and middle-income countries. MPP is a United Nations-backed public health organization working to increase access to, and facilitate the development of life-saving medicines for low- and middle-income countries. It is currently reviewing similar contracts for Pfzer’s oral antiviral Covid-19 treatment Paxlovid.

With the latest win, Korean pharmaceutical companies now produce both Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

SK Bioscience Co. currently produces the drug substance (DS) to the finished drug product for Novavax’s protein-based Covid-19 vaccine. SK Bioscience also announced December that it has extended an agreement to produce antigen, a key component of the vaccine.

Samsung Biologics Co. in May last year signed a license agreement with Moderna for fill-finish manufacturing of the Moderna mRNA Covid-19 vaccine. It also secured a deal for consignment production of Covid-19 antibody treatment and AstraZeneca`s long-acting Covid-19 antibody complex AZD7442, which are being developed by multinational pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly and Company and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Hanmi Pharmaceutical will be producing ZyCoV-D, a DNA plasmid-based Covid-19 vaccine developed by Indian pharmaceutical company Cadila Healthcare. Hanmi Pharm signed a license-out agreement with Enzychem Lifesciences, the Korean marketing authorization holder of the vaccine.

By Chung Seul-gi and Susan Lee

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