Today, we are gathered here at the Institut Pasteur Korea to hold a joint meeting on the development of treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19. We have brought together professionals from relevant research institutions, biotechnology firms, academia and the medical community. I am glad to meet you all.
Currently, not only our people but also those around the world are desperately awaiting COVID-19 treatments and a vaccine. I hope Korea will rise as a leader in the development of these treatments and vaccine as well in the same way that we have emerged as an exemplary nation for infectious disease prevention and control measures. I would like to see this instill courage and confidence in our people and also bring a sense of hope regarding our contracted economy. I am grateful to you all for devoting yourselves to developing treatments and a vaccine.
The development of treatments and a vaccine is the mountain that we must climb in order to overcome COVID-19 completely. We need cooperation among scientists, research institutions, businesses, hospitals and the Government for the rapid development of safe and effective treatments and a vaccine. I look forward to us pooling our wisdom at today’s meeting and inspiring hope in the complete eradication of COVID-19.
The Institut Pasteur Korea is searching among existing authorized medicines for those that might prove effective as treatments for COVID-19. This is a fast way to develop therapeutic drugs, also known as “drug repositioning.” The institute has utilized artificial intelligence technology and winnowed through approximately 1,500 substances to identify around 20 promising compounds in just two months. It has launched some clinical trials on those deemed most effective. Businesses, research organizations and medical institutions are joining forces in these clinical trials to test the drugs’ effectiveness.
In addition, many biopharmaceutical companies are also devoting themselves to developing new treatments through plasma, antibodies, immunomodulation and other means, and I know that there has been significant progress. Upon my arrival just now, I was briefed on a very promising account that says our companies are world-class and also far ahead of their competitors. Compared to multinational pharmaceutical companies and advanced countries, we lack resources and have less experience in developing medicines. Still, we have been striving to develop relevant technologies by learning from the hardships we suffered during the 2015 MERS outbreak. In the same way that we’ve gotten a head start in those efforts and set an example for the world with our diagnostic technology, I hope that we will be able to save lives for humanity through the treatments and vaccine that we develop.
The Government will strengthen public-private cooperation and unquestionably support the development of treatments and a vaccine against COVID-19. Developing treatments for and vaccines against infectious diseases requires considerable time and expenses, so it is difficult to produce results in the short run through private-sector efforts alone. Only with the backing of government R&D investments and fast-tracked approval procedures will it be possible to speed up development of treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19.
Above all, we will use this crisis as an opportunity to further enhance not only our infectious disease prevention and control capabilities but also therapeutic technology. We are planning to introduce a fast clinical trial approval procedure with public safety as the top priority. We will open the door to the private sector with regard to biosafety facilities and provide resources needed to develop treatments and vaccines, such as specimens from the infected or blood from the fully recovered.
The Government will also invest 210 billion won to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and other illnesses. It will help improve the competitiveness of our medicine and vaccine industries, starting with investments in R&D for treatments and the establishment of a novel virus research institute, which are already reflected in the supplementary budget.
Solidarity and cooperation with the international community is also important. The G20 member states, including Korea, have already agreed to share infectious disease prevention and control experiences and clinical data and join forces to develop treatments and a vaccine. Korea will actively participate in the international community’s efforts to surmount the COVID-19 outbreak through a cooperative system led by the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
I am well aware of your hard work and sense of duty. The Government will do its utmost with the mindset that helping all of you concentrate solely on research and development is the way toward saving the lives of our people and those around the world.
At this very moment, the biggest task for humanity is to develop treatments and a vaccine in order to completely overcome COVID-19. Our people’s mature civic awareness helped set an international example and standard for prevention and control measures against COVID-19. Similarly, we can move to the forefront of COVID-19 treatment and vaccine development and contribute to the international community. Each and every one here is the main player in this.
Once again, I look forward to the development of treatments and a vaccine giving our people confidence and hope.