SOUTH KOREA – Samsung Biologics CEO John Rim has said the South Korean biotech will explore the possibility of adding cell and gene therapy to its portfolio as it looks to extend its reach beyond the contract manufacturing sector, according to a report published in the business daily Pulse.

Rim, who was appointed CEO in late 2020, noted that the market for cell and gene therapies is “not yet ripe, so if you wait a little longer, a good sale will be available at an appropriate price.”

Earlier this year, the company said goals for 2022 included expanding its global footprint, as well as adding mRNA drug substance production capabilities following manufacturing deals with Moderna and GreenLight Biosciences.

Samsung Biologics recently started producing mRNA drug substance for GreenLight at its biomanufacturing campus at Songdo in Incheon, South Korea.

There are only two companies in the world that produce mRNA, and it represents an important competitiveness factor to have a company that produces mRNA materials in Korea,” Rim said.

In April, Samsung Biologics completed the purchase of Biogen’s stake in their Samsung Bioepis biosimilars joint venture for US$2.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Samsung Biologics is currently constructing a fourth plant in Songdo, which is expected to be partially operational in October and to run at full capacity by the second quarter of 2023.

It also plans to begin working on a new facility, referred to as Plant 5, where it will offer multi-modal product services, including cell and gene therapies and next-generation vaccines utilizing mRNA, plasma DNA (pDNA) and viral vectors.

Still, Rim struck a prudent note, pointing out that “many companies have built cell and gene therapy factories, but as investor sentiment deteriorates…many are on sale now. The key is whether they can survive until 2024.”

Demand for cell and gene therapy products is too low at the moment, the CEO says, and “it is not yet a profitable sector.”

In April, Samsung Biologics completed the purchase of Biogen’s stake in their Samsung Bioepis biosimilars joint venture for US$2.3 billion.

Rim said the asset transfer will add speed in mid- and long-term growth fueled by new pipeline development, innovation and drug discovery.

The South Korean biotech is already venturing into drug development for its own sake beyond contract services.

It was a good choice for [us] to start with contract production with relatively less risk and we will spare no effort in launching a fund and investing in the development of novel drugs based on the experience we have accumulated through contract production,” the CEO added.

Earlier, Samsung Biologics signed an initial US$81 million contract manufacturing and development deal with Novartis, marking the first time the two companies have worked together.

In a regulatory filing the company said that the deal represents 6.4% of Samsung Biologics’ 1.57 trillion South Korean won (US$1.25 billion) in annual sales last year.

Working as a manufacturing partner for Novartis fits well in Samsung Biologics’ aggressive plans to expand its CDMO aspirations.

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