Pharma Focus Asia

SK Bioscience Expands into Southern Hemisphere Vaccine Market with Influenza Vaccine Export to Thailand

Friday, March 22, 2024

SK bioscience, a renowned global vaccine and biotech firm dedicated to advancing human health through prevention and treatment, announced today that it has sent approximately 440,000 doses of SKYCellflu® to Biogenetech in Thailand from its advanced vaccine manufacturing facility, 'L HOUSE,' located in Andong, South Korea. This marks the company's first export of the flu vaccine, specifically designed for the strains of the influenza virus prevalent during the Southern Hemisphere influenza season.

Although Thailand is situated in the Northern Hemisphere geographically, it adheres to both the WHO's Northern and Southern Hemisphere flu vaccination guidelines due to its elongated geographical span from north to south. Recently, the Thailand Department of Disease Control initiated a vaccination campaign targeting employees in 31 major tourist destinations to combat influenza following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The self-developed cell-cultured influenza vaccine by SK bioscience aligns with the WHO's recommended composition of influenza virus for the 2024 Southern Hemisphere influenza season. With the commencement of exports to Thailand, SK bioscience anticipates expanding its sales not only in the Southeast Asian market but also in the Southern Hemisphere market.

This move is expected to enhance the company's market competitiveness in manufacturing and cost-efficiency. The WHO issues annual recommendations for the viral composition of influenza vaccines for each hemisphere's influenza season. Continuous operation of production facilities in the absence of influenza strain changes for both hemispheres leads to reduced supply delays and cost savings.

SKYCellflu® holds the distinction of being the world's first cell culture-based influenza vaccine to receive WHO Pre-qualification (PQ) certification. Following a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19 vaccine production during the pandemic, the company resumed SKYCellflu® production last year and secured the top position in the national immunization program bid for the 2023-24 season.

Compared to egg-based vaccines, SKYCellflu® is safe for individuals allergic to eggs and does not necessitate antibiotic or preservative administration. Moreover, it is more conducive to rapid production in response to pandemics.

SK bioscience aims to broaden its global market reach through procurement contracts with international organizations such as UNICEF and PAHO. With marketing authorizations already obtained in 12 countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, Mongolia, and Pakistan, and approvals pending in ten more countries, the path is clear for extensive expansion of the export market.

The global influenza vaccine market is anticipated to grow to approximately $12.58 billion by 2030, with an average annual growth rate of 6.98 percent, according to Grand View Research.

Jaeyong Ahn, CEO of SK bioscience, remarked, "The export of SKYCellflu® to Thailand marks our entry into the Southeast Asian and Southern Hemisphere vaccine markets, paving the way for global expansion." He emphasized, "In addition to diversifying our product markets, we are committed to developing vaccines with blockbuster potential, such as our next-generation pneumococcal conjugate vaccine candidate, slated to enter phase III clinical trials this year."

Meanwhile, SK bioscience continues to pursue new sales channels by securing regulatory approvals for its self-developed vaccines worldwide. SKYTyphoid® has received WHO PQ certification, while SKYVaricella® has obtained marketing authorization in Mexico.

The company is also accelerating its ‘Globalization’ project, transferring its R&D and production capabilities to other countries to establish region-specific manufacturing hubs for stable global supply. Last July, SK bioscience signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO), initiating technology transfer for influenza vaccine manufacturing. Cooperation discussions are ongoing with countries across Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.



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