Pharma Focus Asia

SK bioscience and CEPI Sign Agreement to Develop mRNA Vaccines

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

SK bioscience, a global innovative vaccine and biotech company committed to promoting human health from prevention to cure across the globe, today announced that the Company made a new partnership agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for the development of mRNA vaccines to quickly respond to the spread of infectious diseases and to expand its vaccine portfolio.

Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, Park Min-soo, Second Vice Minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), Chang Won (Andrew) Chey, Vice Chairman of SK discovery, and Jaeyong Ahn, CEO of SK bioscience attended the signing ceremony at Grand Walkerhill Seoul and discussed continuous cooperation between the two organizations for the development of mRNA vaccines.

The purpose of the agreement is that SK bioscience, which has secured the latest vaccine platform technologies such as cell culture, bacterial culture, and genetic recombination, expands its portfolio including the mRNA platform technology and establishes an R&D system that can prevent existing or unknown viruses in the future with global institutions. The Company will use the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and Lassa virus to develop the mRNA vaccine platform.

SK bioscience is the CEPI's first partner among global vaccine companies under the CEPI's project of 'RNA vaccine platform technologies and vaccine library development against emerging and select endemic infectious diseases' to quickly respond to unknown infectious diseases (Disease-X) and solve the vaccine equity in low- and middle-income countries.

Under the agreement, SK bioscience will receive up to 140 million USD in R&D expenses from CEPI. Up to 40 million USD in initial funding will be made available to support phase 1/2 clinical trials of two mRNA vaccine platform projects. Pending results from phase 1/2 studies, a further $100 million in funding could be made available to support late-stage trials/licensure to further validate the mRNA platform and have it ready for use in outbreak situations.

SK bioscience and CEPI also agreed to expand cooperation on developing various vaccines based on the mRNA platform to respond to the spread of infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries.

Earlier, SK bioscience had the partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in order to build the mRNA vaccine platform. The Company has been conducting the preclinical study on the mRNA vaccine platform using the COVID-19 virus with 2 million USD funded by the Foundation. The study is an important technology foundation for the collaboration project with CEPI.

SK bioscience will rapidly respond to the spread of infectious diseases based on the mRNA vaccine platform and global network. In particular, the Company plans to consolidate its global position by strengthening its portfolio with the mRNA vaccine platform and by developing new pipeline such as RSV vaccines, CMV vaccines, and anti-cancer vaccines using the mRNA platform.

The mRNA vaccine platform, which was first commercialized in the COVID-19 vaccine during the pandemic, is available for rapid mass production compared to existing platforms by utilizing genetic sequences. It is why the mRNA vaccine platform is considered to be proper in responding to the pandemic. In addition, the related market is expected to expand quickly due to the use possibility for developing treatments. According to Global Industrial Analyst (GIA), the global mRNA vaccine market will increase by 11.9% annually from 64.9 billion USD last year to 127.3 billion USD in 2027.

CEPI and SK bioscience are committed to enabling global equitable access to the vaccines they develop. Under the terms of the funding agreement, SK bioscience has committed to achieving equitable access to the outputs of this project including prioritization of supply for low-and middle-income countries, production of vaccine volumes required to meet public health needs, and affordable pricing, in line with CEPI's Equitable Access Policy.

Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI said, "We are racing against the clock now, because we don't know when the next pandemic virus will emerge. Key to making a future free of pandemics a reality is the ability to rapidly respond to the next Disease X with new vaccines and other countermeasures—in just 100 days. CEPI's expanded partnership with SK bioscience will help kick start the world's efforts to validate these mRNA platform technologies so that they can be used to create a library of vaccines ready for use against the next Disease X, bringing us another step closer achieving the 100 Days Mission, and preparing the world for the next pandemic."

Park Min-soo, Second Vice Minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), said, "I would like to congratulate SK bioscience and CEPI's partnership on development of mRNA vaccine. The Korean government will also make an effort to contribute to solving the vaccine issue as rapid vaccine development and vaccine equity are the most important to respond to the pandemic."

Chang Won Chey, Vice Chairman of SK discovery said, "We all agree that speed is the most important factor to protect humanity from the next life-threatening pandemic. Based on cooperation with global initiatives, including CEPI, we will achieve innovative vaccine development and ultimately contribute to promoting global public health."

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