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South Korean firm to supply rapid COVID-19 test kits to U.S. military

By Kim Ji-woo & Kim Tae-gyu, UPI News Korea
South Korean firm to supply rapid COVID-19 test kits to U.S. military
The DiaTrust rapid COVID-19 test kit is manufactured by South Korean biopharmaceutical company Celltrion. The firm has signed a contract to supply the test kits to the U.S. military. Photo courtesy of Celltrion

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- South Korean biopharmaceutical firm Celltrion has agreed to supply its DiaTrust rapid COVID-19 test kit to the U.S. military.

Celltrion USA said Thursday the Defense Logistics Agency under the U.S. Department of Defense has awarded the company a procurement contract valued at $626 million.

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Under the contract, Celltrion will deliver its products to about 25,000 designated locations to support military bases, long-term care facilities, and community testing sites.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to DiaTrust, which can detect an infection within about 15 minutes.

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Celltrion said DiaTrust has a sensitivity of 93.3 percent and a specificity of 99 percent. The former indicates how often a test correctly generates a positive result, while the latter indicates how often a test correctly generates a negative result.

The company added that the diagnostic kits can only be used in the presence of medical professionals, unlike other over-the-counter products.

"With the COVID-19 pandemic still not showing signs of waning, we plan to focus on executing this contact as diligently as possible and further solidify the external credibility of Celltrion's diagnostic test kits," Celltrion USA CEO Kim Bon-joong said in a statement.

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Meanwhile, Celltrion announced last week that South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety officially approved its COVID-19 antibody drug, Regkirona.

The Regkirona treatment gained conditional approval in February, and has only been used to treat high-risk groups in South Korea. But the official approval will allow those with mild or moderate symptoms to be treated with the drug.

Celltrion said that it will also try to receive approval for the treatment in other countries.

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The company is also working on an oral drug with its U.S. partner Inhalon Biopharma, which gained permission to conduct its Phase 1 trial in Australia.

Companies such as MSD, Roche, and Pfizer are leading the way in developing oral antiviral drugs for COVID-19 as they carry out Phase 3 trials for their drugs.

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