Samsung joint venture to enter biologic, biosimilar drug market

Samsung announced plans to establish a joint manufacturing venture with Quintiles to produce biologic drugs, as part of a series of moves by the South Korean company to diversify its businesses in order to drive growth. Samsung executive vice president Kim Tae Han noted that the unit is expected to start supplying biologic drugs in the first half of 2013, adding that the company is also looking to enter the biosimilar market.

The joint venture, which will initially have 300-billion won ($266 million) of capital, will begin construction of a plant near Seoul in the first half of the year. Once operational, the facility will produce biologic drugs under contract, with the majority being sold overseas. Kim remarked that due to demand for biopharmaceuticals, Samsung may exceed its target to generate 1.8 trillion won ($1.6 billion) a year by 2020 from these products.

Kim added that the company may also establish another joint venture to make biosimilars this year. In May, Samsung said it had 23.3 trillion won ($20.7 billion) to invest in five new business areas by 2020, with 2.1 trillion won ($1.9 billion) set aside for biopharmaceuticals. Half of the budget for biologic drugs will be spent on developing the products and the other half will be used to construct factories.

The executive said the first biosimilar that Samsung would target would be Roche and Biogen Idec's Rituxan (rituximab), which has patent protection in the US until 2018 and in the rest of the world through 2013. The company expects to begin producing biosimilars in 2016, and ultimately aims to develop its own biopharmaceuticals after gaining experience in making them, Kim commented.

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