Originally published in the Korea Economic Daily. Please read below for translated excerpts:
– A consortium involving Genexine, KAIST and others, formed
– IVI tasked with providing testing support and evaluating efficacy
– IVI Director General Kim, a world authority on HIV/AIDS vaccine: “We must learn lessons from the SARS vaccine failure.”
“Resolving the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis depends on when, and how quickly, a vaccine can be developed. International cooperation from a long-term perspective in the field of vaccine development must be achieved in order to deal with large-scale epidemics.”
Jerome Kim is the Director General of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), an organization established under the leadership of the UNDP and based in South Korea. He said on March 23, “We should not repeat the mistakes made during the SARS and MERS epidemics, when vaccines failed to be properly developed.” He continued, “There is no vaccine or treatment available for COVID-19 yet,” adding, “The world is jumping into the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, but it will take a long time to get back results which prove the vaccine to be reliable and for the vaccine to be commercialized.”
IVI, nestled in Bongcheon-dong, Seoul, near Seoul National University’s Gwanak campus, was established in 1997 to develop and distribute vaccines. It is an independent international organization, separate from the United Nations, and is responsible for the development and dissemination of vaccines to protect children in developing countries from infectious diseases.
Last week, IVI announced that it will work with partners in South Korean industry and academia to develop vaccines. In order to develop a vaccine that can be used to prevent COVID-19, it has set up a consortium of industry, academic, and research leaders, including: KAIST, POSTECH, and local biotech company, Genexine. To support coronavirus prevention, IVI will provide testing equipment and evaluate the efficacy of vaccines.
Director General Kim sees the solution to the novel coronavirus epidemic in expanded international cooperation. “Whenever a major epidemic hits, private companies and governments around the world rush to develop vaccines, but their efforts usually go to waste by failing to bring an end product,” he explained. “Collaboration between various entities, including private companies and governments, is essential because the development of vaccines requires enormous amounts of time and capital.”
He added that governments should take action through international cooperation, primarily by utilizing the CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), which was established in 2017 to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. In other words, Director General Kim believes the international community should establish a “common defense front” to prepare for large-scale epidemics in the long-term.
Director General Kim, who was appointed in 2015, is a world authority in the field of HIV vaccines and received a doctorate in medicine from Yale University. He has studied the AIDS virus for about 20 years. He is also a grandson of Kim Hyun-cu, a patriot who led Korea’s independence movement overseas in the U.S. along with former President Syngman Rhee in the early 1900s.
Director General Kim said, “Going forward, IVI will actively cooperate with international organizations and private companies to develop vaccines,” adding that IVI, “will play a role in delivering vaccines to developing countries at affordable prices.”
Reporter Hyun-Joo Jang firstname.lastname@example.org