SEOUL, March 24 (UPI) -- A major South Korean conglomerate has started an animal trial for a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine.
SK Bioscience, an affiliate of SK Group, announced Monday that it will be testing its vaccine on rodents infected with the novel coronavirus. If all goes well, the vaccine will proceed through clinical trials as early as September.
The firm said it could possibly produce the vaccine en masse through production lines in Andong, a city about 50 miles north of Daegu, where most of South Korea's outbreak has occurred.
South Korea has the ninth-largest novel coronavirus outbreak as of Tuesday, with more than 9,000 cases and at least 124 deaths. However, the country has one of the lowest death rates in the world, at just 1.4 percent. In comparison, the United States has an estimated 46,168 cases and 582 deaths.
In South Korea, a pharmaceutical firm called Celltrion also said that it aims to begin a human clinical trial of a COVID-19 treatment in July, two months earlier than previously planned.
Celltrion's founding chairman, Seo Jung-jin, made the announcement on YouTube.
"If we carry out the second and third trial tests at the same time, the procedures can finish within four months. We will be able to roll out products for a million people in a month at our facilities," Seo said.
"Even if the coronavirus threat ends, it may come back later. Therefore, we will keep channeling our resources to finish developing the products to prevent its recurrence," he added.