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Samsung Biologics to begin operations of 4th plant this year

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Samsung Biologics CEO John Rim speaks during an online conference, Thursday. Courtesy of Samsung Biologics
Samsung Biologics CEO John Rim speaks during an online conference, Thursday. Courtesy of Samsung Biologics

By Baek Byung-yeul

Partial operations will begin in October of this year at Samsung Biologics' fourth plant currently being built in Songdo, west of Seoul. The move is part of efforts by the drug-manufacturing unit of Samsung Group to improve its capabilities in the contract manufacturing organization (CMO) business, its CEO said Thursday.

Samsung Biologics has mainly handled so-called "fill-and-finish" contracts until now, which involve filling vials with drugs and packaging them for distribution. The company is seeking to boost output, while taking on new development projects.

"We plan to start the partial operations of the fourth plant in October of this year, which is six months earlier than scheduled. The plant will be able to fully operate starting in the second quarter of next year," the company's CEO, John Rim, said during an online conference.

For the company's new drug-manufacturing facility, the CEO said, "We have already won orders from three big pharmaceutical companies to manufacture five kinds of products and are discussing with an additional 20 pharmaceutical companies to produce 30 products."

The fourth plant will have an annual drug-manufacturing capacity of 256,000 liters. When the fourth plant is in full operation, the company will secure a total of 620,000 liters.

Rim said that the company will also actively seek business opportunities in the COVID-19 vaccine sector. Samsung Biologics is already in the contract-based vaccine production business as it has been filling Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine vials with drug substances in its facility here in Korea since 2021.

The CEO said that Samsung Biologics will begin producing the drug substances for messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines starting in May. The company plans to start producing raw materials for mRNA vaccine candidates from U.S.-based biotech company GreenLight Biosciences.

With regards to building production facilities in overseas countries, Rim said that the company is considering various locations, but that nothing has been decided yet.

"We plan to expand our business to places where our existing and potential clients are concentrated, such as the U.S., Europe or China. To that end, various methods such as mergers and acquisitions, or direct expansion, are being considered. We are reviewing various factors, such as how fast we can expand, how much it costs and how risky it is," he said.

Stating that the company will begin construction of its fifth plant within this year, the CEO said that Samsung is securing additional sites within Songdo for its sixth plant and Open Innovation Center.

"The reason for building a lot of facilities in Korea is that they can be built quickly and the costs are much less compared to building facilities in other countries. It will still take some time to have our facility in the U.S. (set up). So far, Korea is the fastest one in terms of getting the timing right from the standpoint of our customers," the CEO added.

Prior to the press conference, Rim also shared the company's business strategy for this year at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. The event, which was held in the United States from Jan. 10 to 13, is organized each year by U.S. investment bank J.P. Morgan. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the conference was held online.

Baek Byung-yeul

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