By Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's drug safety agency said Tuesday that it is reviewing whether to grant fast-track approval of a vaccine candidate developed by British-Swedish bio giant AstraZeneca Plc.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it has formed a team of officials dedicated to evaluating whether to give the green light to the vaccine candidate.
Pharmaceutical companies from both home and abroad have joined the global race to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 virus, with 27 of them having approval for clinical trials.
Of them, a total of 19 clinical trials -- 17 treatment candidates and two vaccine candidates -- are currently being conducted, the ministry said.
Among the front runners of COVID-19 vaccine candidates under development is small biopharmaceutical maker Genexine Inc.
GX-I7 -- co-developed by U.S.-based biopharmaceutical firm NeoImmuneTech Inc. -- is administered in adult COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms.
Also, Celltrion Inc.'s antiviral antibody treatment candidate called CT-P59 is currently undergoing phase two and three trials, both at home and abroad.
The company is currently conducting phase two trials on around 300 people with mild and severe symptoms of the virus, which will allow researchers to better check CT-P59's efficacy against COVID-19 and its overall safety.
Phase three, involving around 720 people, will be carried out to see if the candidate material is actually effective against viral infections, according to the pharmaceutical giant.