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Shinpoong, Bukwang stocks jump on Covid-19 drug candidates

Jeong Sae-im  Published 2020.05.11  12:03  Updated 2020.05.11 12:03

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Shares of two Korean pharmaceutical companies have shot up since the first outbreak of Covid-19 in Korea on Jan. 20, because of the potentials of their drugs as a Covid-19 treatment.

Shinpoong Pharmaceutical’s stock price surged 168 percent to close at 19,050 won ($15.67) Friday, compared with 7,120 won recorded on Jan. 20. Shinpoong shares reached a peak of 25,000 won over the past 52 weeks. Since the nation confirmed the first case, 20, Shinpoong’s stocks have recorded the 30 percent daily maximum price increase four times.

Shinpoong drew investors’ attention as the company’s antimalaria treatment was mentioned as a candidate for the Covid-19 treatment, just as another antimalarial agent chloroquine was cited as a possible Covid-19 drug. When news reports first mentioned chloroquine as a coronavirus treatment on Feb. 5, Shinpoong’s stock hit a 30 percent jump. The next day, its shares continued to go up 16.61 percent.

When researchers released data that showed chloroquine’s efficacy on Feb. 18, Shinpoong’s stocks climbed by more than 10 percent, again. At the time, the company did not reveal its intention to develop an antimalarial agent. However, Shinpoong shareholders’ anticipation grew even stronger.

Then, a foreign expert expressed interest in Shinpoong’s antimalarial agent. Dr. Sean Ekins of Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, Inc. contacted Shinpoong to seek joint effort to develop the company’s Pyramax (ingredient: pyronaridine) as a Covid-19 treatment, local news reports said. Ekins, an expert in the Ebola virus, said in a study that after testing over 2,000 existing drugs to find a treatment of Ebola virus, only three including pyronaridine showed efficacy. When the study was on the news on March 3, Shinpoong’s shares jumped another 20 percent.

On April 3, when Shinpoong announced it confirmed Pyramax’s effectiveness on Covid-19, the company’s stock hit another 30 percent maximum daily hike for a second consecutive day. As transactions overheated, the financial regulator designated the stock as a risky investment and suspended the trading of Shinpoong shares for one day. On April 10, when the stock trading resumed, however, the company’s shares jumped more than 16 percent.

Shinpoong reportedly sought the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s approval for a phase-2 study on Pyramax. If the company wins the nod, its stock price might shoot up again.

Bukwang Pharmaceutical is also receiving the stock market’s attention with the potential of its antiviral drug as a Covid-19 treatment. It was the first domestic company to enter a clinical trial to fight Covid-19. The company is testing its hepatitis B treatment Levovir (clevudine) in a phase-2 trial in Korea.

On March 10, when Levovir’s possible effect against Covid-19 was known, Bukwang’s shares marked a 30 percent maximum daily increase. The company said the drug showed effectiveness similar to that of Kaletra, currently used to treat Covid-19, in an “in vivo” lab test. After some ups and downs, Bukwang’s shares rose around 14 percent further on March 19, on the news that the company sought approval for the Levovir trial.

The anticipation for the nod for the trial continued to grow until late March. As analysts said Bukwang was likely to become the first local company to get the nod for the test to fight Covid-19, the company’s stock price climbed to close at 25,350 won.

On April 14, the company obtained the green light for the phase-2 study against Covid-19 as the first Korean pharma to do so. With the expectations already reflected in earlier stock price growths, the company’s shares jumped 24.49 percent to 27,700 won on the same day.

The phase-2 study on Levovir evaluates the safety and efficacy of Levovir plus hydroxychloroquine in domestic patients with moderate to severe Covid-19.

As of 11:00 a.m. Monday, Bukwang’s shares traded at 24,550 won, up 68.7 percent from 14,550 won recorded on Jan. 20.

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