|A Celltrion Pharm plant in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province / Courtesy of Celltrion Pharm|
By Nam Hyun-woo
Korean pharmaceutical companies are fighting hardly cured viruses such as the coronavirus and HIV to fill the possible vacuum in the global procurement market stemming from lockdowns on global drug makers.
According to Celltrion Pharm, a pharmaceutical unit of biotech group Celltrion, it will set up a manufacturing line exclusively for Celltrion's HIV treatment CT-G7 at its plant in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province.
After setting up the new line, the company will operate the plant around the clock, as well as increasing the researching and manufacturing workforces by 15 percent.
The decision appears to be the company's strategy to exploit a possible vacuum in the global HIV treatment procurement market in the near future, as drug makers in India, which are major suppliers of chemical drugs for the global market, suffer lockdowns due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The company said Indian pharmaceutical firms' plant operation rate averaged 30 percent.
CT-G7, earlier known as CT-G07, is a three-drug-in-one-tablet HIV treatment developed by Celltrion, which won a tentative approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April. The FDA in March conducted an on-site inspection of the Cheongju plant and observed no violation.
According to Clinton Health Access Initiative, the global HIV treatment market is valued at 1.2 trillion won ($969.5 million), and Celltrion Group believes CT-G7 will occupy at least 10 percent of the market to post 120 billion won in sales annually.
Since global procurement agencies are focusing on the stable supply of HIV treatments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Celltrion Pharm said it is seeking to raise the market share to 20 percent.
Recently, Korean pharmaceutical firms are making strides in the world's battle against costly and deadly diseases. Their efforts to improve their presence in the global market came as a response to the country's fast recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Celltrion is currently developing an antibody drug stemming from cured COVID-19 patients' blood samples after earmarking 20 billion won for R&D. With clinical tests scheduled for mid-July, Celltrion Chairman Seo Jung-jin said the company will prioritize speed rather than profitability.
GC Pharma, which is also developing a blood plasma therapy for COVID-19 ― GC5131A ― recently decided to provide its therapy for free to Korean patients, shouldering all costs for development and distribution.
"The drug for the unprecedented pandemic should fully serve the purpose of public healthcare," GC Pharma CEO Huh Eun-chul said.