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

The drugmaker based in Osaka 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 its subsidiary UMN Pharma Inc. and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The Japanese company said last week it will develop a recombinant protein vaccine for the virus that causes acute respiratory dysfunction, while also seeking to discover therapeutic drugs for the disease.

Supplied photo shows Shionogi & Co.  President and CEO Isao Teshirogi.

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

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

Furthermore, Chugai Pharmabody Research Pte., a subsidiary in Singapore of Japanese drugmaker 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 a rising death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, the government approved on Thursday the use of the anti-viral drug 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 one week after the United States authorized emergency use of the drug to treat COVID-19 patients.

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