SOUTH KOREA – SK Bioscience Co., a South Korean vaccine maker, has announced that it will broaden its business portfolio in order to secure a new growth engine, with the goal of becoming a global top-tier biotechnology firm by 2025, Yonhap reports.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bio unit of South Korea’s family-controlled conglomerate SK Group announced its business plan that goes beyond the vaccine sector on the one-year anniversary of its initial public offering (IPO) on the main bourse.

Following the successful IPO, the company’s market capitalization increased to nearly 11 trillion won (US$9.1 billion), up from 4.9 trillion won (US$4.0 trillion), putting it among the top 40 most valuable companies.

We are eying another leap beyond the vaccine sector to advance into the biotechnology sector,” CEO Ahn Jae-yong said, adding the company is eying various new businesses to move to an endemic phase from the pandemic.

Based on the proceeds from the IPO and accumulated cash, Ahn stated that the company will expand into new businesses such as cell and gene therapy (CGT) and acquire other small biotech firms.

Following a contract with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, the company became the leading local contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), specializing in the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines.

We expect CDMO to be stable for the next two to three years,” Ahn said, adding that the company provided AstraZeneca doses globally but did not specify the quantity.

According to the bio expert, the company is in discussions with a number of global behemoths, including Novavax Inc., to expand its CDMO business and is preparing an additional pipeline at its plant in Andong, about 270 kilometers south of Seoul.

In addition, after receiving US$3.6 million in research funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the company is thoroughly preparing for the successful launch of the country’s first COVID-19 vaccine.

GBP510 is the country’s first homegrown vaccine candidate to reach the final stage of clinical testing.

In the first half of 2022, SK Bioscience anticipates receiving emergency approval from South Korean and European drug authorities.

Earlier this year, the company signed an agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to extend its capacity reservations for manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines until the end of 2022.

Last year, the two initially agreed to reserve manufacturing capacity at SK Bioscience’s Andong plant in 2020 and 2021 for the development and production of CEPI-designated COVID-19 vaccines.

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