S.Korea's Genexine begins human trial of coronavirus vaccine

SEOUL, June 19 (Reuters) - Biotech firm Genexine Inc has launched a human clinical trial of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine in South Korea, saying it has become the first company in the country to test such a vaccine candidate on people.

Genexine said it enrolled the trial’s first participants on Friday, and that it expects preliminary data on safety, drug tolerance and immune response from the trial in September.

Shares of Genexine jumped more than 14% on Friday.

“If everything goes as planned, we aim to complete all stages of our human clinical trial by the end of 2021,” said a Genexine official.

Woo Jung-won, executive vice president in charge of Genexine’s development division, told Reuters the trial follows “positive results of our DNA vaccine in animal tests, including primates.”

Genexine’s phase 1 trial in South Korea will involve 40 healthy participants, with a second phase to be conducted in the second half of the year with 150 participants in countries including Indonesia and Thailand, a Genexine official told Reuters.

The project is a collaboration between the International Vaccine Institute, drug manufacturer Binex Co Ltd and biotech firm GenNBio Inc as well as the state-run Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology and Pohang University of Science & Technology.

The World Health Organization website lists 13 experimental coronavirus vaccines as currently being tested on humans.

South Korean pharmaceutical maker Celltrion Inc said early this month it aims to start an in-human COVID-19 drug trial in July. Others including SK Bioscience and Green Cross Corp have said they are at the beginning stage of COVID-19 vaccine development.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Additional reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Christopher Cushing