The Korea Herald

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Korean biotech firms seek to shine at Bio USA amid China’s boycott

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : June 2, 2024 - 16:22

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Samsung Biologics exhibition booth at the 2023 Bio USA held in Boston, Massachusetts (Samsung Biologics) Samsung Biologics exhibition booth at the 2023 Bio USA held in Boston, Massachusetts (Samsung Biologics)

A record number of South Korean pharmaceutical and biotech companies are joining this week’s Bio International Convention to showcase their latest innovations and boost client partnerships amid the absence of their Chinese rivals.

The event, also known as Bio USA, will run Monday through Thursday in San Diego.

Aligning with this year's theme, "Time for Science to Shine," more than 20,000 biotechnology and pharma leaders have registered for this year's convention. From Korea alone, a total of 47 companies will set up exhibition booths, including major contract development manufacturing organizations such as Samsung Biologics, Celltrion, SK Bioscience and Lotte Biologics.

San Diego is one of the US' top three biotech clusters, alongside Boston and San Francisco. As of 2017, the city boasts over 1,100 biotech companies, 85 clinical research organizations, and 80 research institutes.

Amid escalating US-China tensions, leading Chinese companies like WuXi Biologics and WuXi AppTec have chosen to boycott this year's Bio USA. This decision follows the passage of the US Biosecure Act of 2024 in March, which prohibits federal contracting with certain biotechnology providers connected to foreign adversaries, effectively targeting Chinese manufacturers.

Industry observers suggest that Korean biotech firms could benefit if they quickly devise and implement strategies accordingly, as other rival firms like Switzerland's Lonza Group or Japan's Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies are also eyeing to secure a bigger presence in the US.

"While it has mostly been Korean companies having to promote themselves unilaterally to lure foreign clients, this year we've seen a shift at the Bio USA," an industry official said.

"Some of the top 10 multinational pharmaceutical companies have shown interest in Korean firms, contacting them firsthand and initiating follow-up meetings themselves. There is growing recognition of Korean technology in new drug development, joint research and licensing, leading to more two-way communication," he added.

Samsung Biologics, the world’s largest contract drug maker, is one of the biggest exhibitors at Bio USA, joining the event for the 12th consecutive year.

Last year, the company completed Plant 4, the world's largest pharmaceutical production facility, and plans to start construction on Plant 5, which will have a capacity of 180,000 liters, bringing the total production volume to 784,000 liters by April 2025.

Under the new CDO slogan "Agile, Flexible, Focused on You," Samsung Biologics aims to attract global customers at the event through large content walls with various video displays, showcasing its latest achievements. Additionally, it plans to highlight its client-customized CDO platform services and expand its antibody drug conjugate portfolio, while introducing the centralized Bio Campus II, which will have a production capacity of 1.324 million liters by 2032.

Biosimilar giant Celltrion, a participant since 2010, held over 100 meetings last year focused on new drug development, raw material procurement and patent resolution. With its autoimmune disease treatment Zymfentra which made US debut on March, Celltrion's Founder and Chairman Seo jung-jin has shown great confidence in the added portfolio's potential, expecting an estimated 500 billion won in sales this year, according to local reports.

Lotte Biologics, attending for the third consecutive year, completed its acquisition of a plant in Syracuse, New York, last year and began constructing a 120,000-liter bio plant in Songdo, Incheon, slated for completion in 2025.

Matika Biotechnology, a subsidiary of CHA Bio Group's US cell and gene therapy products, will have a booth for the second year, specifically promoting CBT101 immune cell therapy based on natural killer cells, and chimeric antigen receptor natural killer cell therapy.

Since 2000, the KoreaBio and the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency have jointly operated the Korean Pavilion at Bio USA.