Bill Gates says a COVID-vaccine maker he backed can produce 200 million doses by June

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SK Bioscience, the South Korean pharmaceutical company backed by Bill Gates, may be capable of producing 200 million coronavirus vaccine kits by next June, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder said in a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Gates is seeking to cooperate closely with South Korea, the presidential office in Seoul said Sunday, citing the July 20 letter, without elaborating on what else it said.

The U.S. billionaire’s foundation gave $3.6 million in May to SK Bioscience to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines. Besides working on its own vaccine candidates, the company is also one of the contract manufacturers tapped by AstraZeneca Plc to make its vaccine. The company declined further comment on Monday.

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Developed with Oxford University, Astrazeneca’s vaccine is in the third and last stage of human testing and is one of the front-runners in the global race for immunization.

Shares of SK Chemicals, which holds a 98% stake in SK Bioscience, jumped as much as 25% on Monday on the news of the company’s vaccine-making capacity.

Hundreds of vaccines are being developed across the world to immunize against COVID-19 as it becomes increasingly clear that countries cannot safely re-open their economies and return to normal life without one. A handful of vaccines, include the AstraZeneca-Oxford one and two from China, are in the final stages of testing, raising hope that a shot can be available before the end of the year.

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