SEJONG, Sept 4 — South Korea’s finance ministry said Friday it has set aside 170.7 billion won (US$143 million) to help local companies develop homegrown vaccines and treatment drugs next year to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Of the budget, 31.9 billion won will be spent to discover candidate materials for a potential vaccine and 7.4 billion won will be spent for non-human clinical trials, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said in a statement.

A total of 131.4 billion won will be spent for human trials of potential vaccines next year, the ministry said.

Separately, the government will spend 200 billion won (US$168 million) next year to boost research facilities to help combat infectious diseases, the ministry said.

Globally, pharmaceutical firms and scientists are scrambling to develop a safe and effective vaccine against the new coronavirus, and many experts agree that mass production of such a vaccine could be possible in the middle of next year.

Last month, South Korea allowed Genexine Inc., a local biotechnology firm, to conduct a Phase I human trial of its potential coronavirus treatment drug.

Next year, the government will spend 27.2 trillion won (US$22.8 billion) for research and development, up 12.3 per cent from this year.

It marks the second straight year that the research budget has seen a double-digit rise, following an 18 per cent jump this year.


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