South Korea's science ministry said Friday the country will spend 7.4 billion won (US$6.4 million) in researching messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology by 2024 in a move to boost its preparedness against infectious diseases.
The relatively new type of vaccine has recently been in the spotlight as global pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have developed effective vaccines based on the technology against COVID-19.
Unlike traditional vaccines that put a weakened or inactivated germ for an immune response, mRNA vaccines teach cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Ministry of Science and ICT said the government will commit 7.16 billion won to develop core technology related to mRNA vaccines over the next three years, while the private sector will commit 260 million won.
The research aims to develop a platform for vaccine antigen candidates, vaccine delivery systems as well as safety evaluation systems.
Local pharmaceutical companies currently have a three-year gap in mRNA technology compared with overseas rivals, according to a government survey.
Around 10 local companies are planning clinical trials for mRNA vaccines.