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South Korea’s Celltrion has reported progress in its efforts to fight the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic.

Just days ago, Celltrion unveiled emergency plans to deal with the COVID-19 situation in South Korea by speeding up development of a potential therapeutic antibody and rapid, accurate testing kit, without considering the economic returns.(Also see "Celltrion Pledges Efforts on Coronavirus Antibody And Kit" - Generics Bulletin, 19 Mar, 2020.)

Celltrion has now announced that it has successfully completed the first step of developing an antiviral treatment to fight Coronavirus and is aiming to launch a rapid self-testing diagnostic kit that could provide results within 15-20 minutes.

Ki-Sung Kwon, head of the research and development division at Celltrion, said “our COVID-19 antiviral treatment is designed to train the immune system to make antibodies that recognise and block the spike protein that the virus uses to enter human cells.”

As part of Celltrion’s emergency preparedness plan to address the outbreak which has infected over 700,000 people worldwide, the company has been selected as a preferred developer for a monoclonal antibody project to treat and prevent COVID-19 by the Korea Centers for Disease Control (KCDC).

Noting that Korea was one of the first countries to be affected by the global pandemic, Celltrion said that it has identified the library of antibodies sourced from the blood of recovered patients in Korea, which are thought to be involved in neutralizing the virus and may contribute to recovery from COVID-19.

“These antibodies are undergoing further screening processes to identify those that are most effective in neutralising the virus causing COVID-19,” disclosed Celltrion, adding that “once identified these will form the basis of the antiviral treatment to be tested through pre-clinical and clinical trials around the world in the third quarter of 2020.”

Diagnostic Kit Planned For Mid-Year

Celltrion also aims to launch a rapid self-testing diagnostic kit by the summer of 2020.

Talking about the diagnostic kit, Kwon said, “antibodies that bond to the COVID-19 antigen will also be used to develop a diagnostic kit.”

The kit by Celltrion is designed to show results within 15-20 minutes, with optimised sensitivity, specificity and improved accuracy features. It will focus on “the gene that encodes the surface spike (S) protein which is an essential glycoprotein for viral entry into human host cells.”

According to the company, once the self-testing kit gains a CE mark, it will become available throughout Europe through Celltrion Healthcare.

Celltrion also plans to apply for device authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory authorities after acquiring relevant data.

“We implemented an emergency preparedness plan at the very start of the COVID-19 outbreak leveraging our unique antibody discovery, development and manufacturing technologies,” added Kwon.

Development Of ‘Super Antibody’

Celltrion has also announced that it plans to develop a ‘super antibody’ candidate that could contribute towards preparedness for potential future pandemic situations.

According to the company, “the ‘super antibody’ would attach and neutralize all kinds of coronavirus related strains, such as those causing COVID-19 and SARS, enabling further protection against unforeseen or unexpected mutations.”

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