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Celltrion has transitioned to the second phase of development for its planned antiviral treatment to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Korea’s Celltrion recently announced that it had successfully completed the first step of developing an antiviral treatment to fight coronavirus and was aiming to launch a rapid self-testing diagnostic kit that could provide results within 15-20 minutes. (Also see "Celltrion Makes Progress On Coronavirus Treatment" - Generics Bulletin, 30 Mar, 2020.) 

Ki-Sung Kwon, head of Celltrion’s research and development unit, stated that “due to the urgent need for a COVID-19 antiviral treatment, we have expedited the overall development process of our antiviral therapy to help infected patients fight this emerging virus and halt further spread of the disease.”

Hence, after the completion of the first phase of securing 300 different types of antibodies that bind to the antigen last month, Celltrion began selecting the therapeutic antibodies which were most potent for neutralizing the infection, in co-operation with Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Celltrion also announced further progress in developing an effective treatment by identifying “14 antibodies that are able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.”

“Once we have selected the one that most effectively neutralizes the COVID-19 virus among hundreds of the screened antibodies,” Kwon commented, “we will roll out mass production of the therapeutic antibody treatment, with a view to starting human trials this July.”

According to Celltrion, “these antibodies can recognise multiple epitopes, thus increasing the probability of neutralization against viral mutations.” The company has confirmed that it will “begin cell-line development this week.”

Kwon added that “we are bringing our full resources and expertise to overcome this global health crisis and are glad to have identified these antibodies sooner than previously expected.”

Korea was one of the first countries affected by the pandemic and Celltrion’s library of antibodies was created using the blood of recovered patients in Korea in the first phase of antiviral development.

Together with KCDC, Celltrion aims to roll out mass production of the therapeutic antibody and conduct efficacy and toxicity testing in mice and non-human primates.

Further, to tackle unforeseen or unexpected mutations, Celltrion also revealed that it plans to develop a ‘super antibody’ or ‘an antibody cocktail therapy’ that can “neutralize multiple coronavirus related strains such as those causing COVID-19 and SARS.”

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