Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Korea is rising as a production base for vaccines and medication. Pictured here are researchers at SK Bioscience on Nov. 15 working at a lab. (Yonhap News)

By Kim Minji and Lee Hana

Korea is rising as a production base for vaccines and medication for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Samsung Biologics has signed contract manufacturing organization (CMO) agreements with two pharmaceutical companies abroad to make a novel coronavirus-neutralizing antibody, Yonhap News reported on Nov. 18.

The Korean company signed a deal in April with the U.K.'s GlaxoSmithKline and in May with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. In five months, Samsung has manufactured and delivered its initial supply to its partners.

Developed by Eli Lilly and mass-produced by Samsung, the antibody allows patients to receive treatment in a timely manner. The manufacturing timeline for the production of medical supplies was shortened by reducing the period for biomedical tech transfer to three months. 

SK Bioscience in July signed a CMO deal with the U.K.'s AstraZeneca to produce COVID-19 vaccines. The following month, the Korean company signed a contract development and manufacturing organization agreement with Novavax of the U.S. on vaccine production. 

GC Pharma signed a deal with the Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines developed by multinational pharmaceutical companies. 

Korean biotech company GL Rapha will manufacture a portion of the Sputnik V, the world's first registered vaccine against COVID-19 developed by Russia.

"Korean pharmaceutical and biotech companies have the production capabilities and are now recognized and trusted around the world. This is proof that Korea has the competitiveness to serve as an advanced base for the Asian market," said Lee Jae-guk, executive director at the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association.

President Moon Jae-in on Nov. 18 attended a biotech event at Yonsei University's international campus in Incheon's Songdo district. He said the Korean biotech industry is safeguarding the health of humanity by fighting the pandemic, adding that Korea will grow beyond a production base into biotech powerhouse.

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