Institut Pasteur Korea IPK CEO Dr. Youngmee Jee’s expert interview on Korea`s response to COVID-19 and vaccine development at BIO-Europe 2021

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IPK CEO Dr. Youngmee Jee’s expert interview on Korea`s response to COVID-19 and vaccine development at BIO-Europe 2021
November 09, 2021

IPK CEO Dr. Youngmee Jee's expert interview on Korea's response to COVID-19 and vaccine development at BIO-Europe 2021


Dr. Youngmee Jee, CEO of Institut Pasteur Korea (IPK), participated in an expert interview on the theme of "Exploring Korea's coordination of COVID-19 measures and vaccine development” at BIO-Europe 2021, which was held online for 3 days beginning October 25.

>> Full Interview: 

In response to a question regarding the Korean government’s response to COVID-19 and future directions, Dr. Jee mentioned that the government took prompt action for early authorization of testing kits in February 2020 and effectively distributed them in partnership with the private sector.  She added these efforts enabled rapid diagnosis, treatment, and implementation of control measures and ultimately contributed to the global COVID-19 response through international exporting of Korean testing kits. Moreover, the government has made cross-ministerial efforts to support the development of vaccines and therapeutics in cooperation with experts at universities, research institutes, and companies. 

Adding that public-private partnership was activated through implementation of a multifaceted COVID-19 response strategy, Dr. Jee expected elevated synergy in R&D given the government and companies communicate and cooperate on an equal footing in the future. To expedite the development of vaccines and therapeutics, she suggested that the government expand funding for high-cost phase III clinical trials and establish a Data and Safety Monitoring Board to support R&D experts to share their latest findings. 

Regarding the vaccine development strategies of Korean companies that aim to get approval for use next year, Dr. Jee advised that approval should be sought for use as booster vaccines as well as primary vaccines. In addition to vaccines, she claimed that continuous efforts should be made to develop therapeutics, including oral drugs which can prevent progression to severe cases.  

Regarding strategies to enhance R&D and international competitiveness of the Korean pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Jee commented that investment volume falls short to the global pharmaceutical companies, but Korea’s excellent human resources and R&D capabilities, which had not been widely recognized in the past, made a global standout with their development of COVID-19 testing kits, participation as vaccine CMOs, and vaccine technology transfer. 

Dr. Jee expressed her hope for Korea’s potential demonstrated in development of diagnostic kits to be carried over to vaccines and therapeutics, calling for sustainable investment from the government as well as cooperation from international research funds such as the RIGHT Fund. 

In her reply to a question on IPK’s contributions in COVID-19 response, she mentioned that IPK quickly discovered COVID-19 drug candidates leveraging its infectious disease research expertise and image-based high-throughput screening platforms, and shared that the identified candidates are undergoing domestic and international clinical trials. Furthermore, she revealed that IPK initiated research with the goal of developing new broad-spectrum antivirals for the use against various human coronaviruses, and that it is conducting analysis studies on the immunological response and protection durations of different vaccines types in collaboration with major hospitals in Korea. 

Dr. Jee pointed out that the first strategic priority of IPK is to commercialize the excellent research output, such as in-house developed MDR-TB drug candidate (Q203) as well as the COVID-19 drug candidates, for use in actual medical fields. She revealed that IPK has been actively collaborating with international partners, including DNDi and GARDP, and will further activate global collaboration with prominent international infectious disease R&D organizations. She also added that IPK plays a role as an Asian-Pacific hub of the Pasteur Network, bringing together research centers in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iran, and New Caledonia for response to unmet public health needs, including COVID-19 and antibiotic resistance.