Shionogi & Co. said Friday it aims to launch a vaccine for the novel coronavirus as early as fall 2021 and is preparing to begin clinical trials by the end of the year.

The Osaka-based drugmaker will consider producing the vaccine for 10 million people. It is rare for a pharmaceutical company to study production before the results of clinical trials come out, but Shionogi is looking to bring the vaccine to market as early as possible.

The company will advance development jointly with subsidiary UMN Pharma Inc. and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The company said last week it will develop a recombinant protein vaccine for the virus, which causes acute respiratory dysfunction, while also seeking to discover therapeutic drugs for the disease, known as COVID-19.

Among other pharmaceutical companies, U.S. giant Pfizer Inc. has started clinical testing of a coronavirus vaccine and Anges Inc., a Japanese biopharmaceutical startup established by an Osaka University professor, is currently conducting animal testing.

An overseas unit of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. has begun developing a vaccine as well.

Furthermore, Chugai Pharmabody Research Pte., a Singapore-based subsidiary of Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., said Friday it has begun joint research on an antibody to fight COVID-19 with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

The study will focus on a potential therapeutic antibody discovered earlier by a research team at the agency, the company said.

As Japan, like other countries, grapples with the rising death toll from COVID-19, the government on Thursday approved the use of the anti-viral remdesivir in an expedited review.

The approval came three days after the Japanese unit of U.S. developer Gilead Sciences Inc. filed an application, and a week after the United States authorized emergency use of the failed Ebola drug to treat COVID-19 patients.

The government is also expected to approve the flu drug Avigan, developed by a Fujifilm Holdings Corp. subsidiary, later in the month for treating coronavirus patients.

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