Korean biotech SK Bioscience, known for bringing forward the first South Korean-developed COVID-19 vaccine, is pursuing its beyond-COVID growth strategy with a new green light for its SKYCellflu vaccine. The recent approval by Chile’s Instituto de Salud Publica follows nine others and is the first in the Latin America region.
We are implementing a business strategy to raise the vaccine R&D and production infrastructure to a global level
Jaeyong Ahn, CEO, SK Bioscience
Late last year South Korea’s SK Bioscience announced its new growth strategy, which aimed to look beyond the COVID-19 vaccine, SKYCovione, it had been so heavily focused on during the pandemic and confront a challenging global economic environment. As a part of that strategy, SK is pursuing its plans to resume production of its flu vaccine, SKYCellflu, set aside during the pandemic, as it continues to rack up green lights from regulatory bodies across the world.
The newest approval, from Chile’s health authorities and the first in a Latin American country, comes after approvals in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, Iran, Singapore, Pakistan, Mongolia and Brunei. The vaccine has also obtained WHO Pre-Qualification and leads the flu vaccine market in Korea.
SKYCellflu is the first flu vaccine of its kind, a cell culture-based vaccine that the company claims can be produced much more quickly than currently authorized fertilized chicken egg-based influenza vaccines, allowing for quick response to pandemics or the emergence of variants. Because the cells are cultured through aseptic incubators without the use of antibiotics or preservatives, those with egg anaphylaxis or egg allergy can safely be vaccinated with Sky Cellflu.
“SKYCellflu which will be resumed to be manufactured this year and will contribute to public health beyond Korea to the world. We will do our best that our self-developed vaccines will help to promote global health security,” said CEO Jaeyong Ahn.
In addition to the flu vaccine, another area SK outlined in its new strategy to focus on as COVID-19 moves into an endemic stage is the development of a combination COVID-19/flu vaccine candidate. “SK bioscience currently also develops a vaccine candidate effective for the entire Sarbecovirus group to establish a broader protection system against COVID-19 variants and SARS in the future and a combination vaccine candidate that applies for both flu and COVID-19 at once,” the company stated.
SK also plans to pursue the rollout of its SKYVaricella varicella vaccine, which is already being supplied to Latin America through an order from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO.
Moreover, SK is looking to expand and aims to further secure technologies in all areas of the cell and gene therapy (CGT) business. To achieve this, the firm is looking to pursue mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and partnerships like the recent agreement it secured with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop the latest mRNA vaccine platform.
Under the agreement, SK bioscience will receive up to USD 140 million in R&D expenses to support phase 1/2 clinical trials of two mRNA vaccine platform projects.
“Although it is a difficult situation due to the deterioration of the internal and external business environment, we are implementing a business strategy to raise the vaccine R&D and production infrastructure to a global level in order to meet the expectations of stakeholders,” said Ahn when the new strategy was announced.