SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) — A number of major South Korean pharmaceutical companies have recently signed a series of deals to manufacture vaccines and treatment drugs for the novel coronavirus, industry watchers said Wednesday.

Among the front-runners is industry leader Samsung Biologics Co., which successfully inked two contract manufacturing organization (CMO) agreements this year.

Earlier this week, the company also signed a long-term agreement with U.S. pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company to manufacture a novel coronavirus-neutralizing antibody.

Under the CMO agreement, Samsung Biologics will provide Eli Lilly’s investigational neutralizing antibody for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the investigational therapy, which is used for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older with a positive COVID-19 test.

Another industry leader, SK Bioscience, also inked a CMO deal with global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in July to supply a candidate material for a COVID-19 vaccine.

In August, the local biotech firm also signed a separate contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) deal with Novavax, a U.S. biopharmaceutical company, for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Under the deal, SK Bioscience will receive the antigen manufacturing technology from Novavax and will produce the vaccine at its plant in the country.

Smaller player GC Pharma also joined hands with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines.

Under the undisclosed deal, part of GC Pharma’s production facilities in the country will be used for COVID-19 drug production by global enterprises supported by the CEPI.

GC Pharma will be in charge of more than 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines starting from March 2021 to May 2022, according to the company.

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