Speaking at a press conference during Bio International 2023, CEO John Rim said: “This decision reflects the company's proactive approach to meet the increasing demand for CDMO services and accommodate new customer contracts.”
According to James Choi, EVP, chief marketing officer and head of global public affairs at Samsung Biologics, the annual industry gathering presented a significant opportunity to announce the news.
“It was great timing. We didn’t arrive at the five-month mark overnight, it was a case of continuous optimization and checking the numbers over and over again. When we confirmed the timeline, BIO was around the corner – so we went ahead,” he tells Bio-Pharma Reporter at the event.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to advance the overall construction and engineering schedule by seeing where we can do things in parallel. Whatever ultimately doesn’t impact the quality of the product, we see as an opportunity to optimize.”
Samsung Biologics has grown to become a major player in the biopharma manufacturing space and continues to make significant investments to scale up its operations.
According to the company, its upcoming fifth plant marks the first phase of its second Bio Campus, which will feature an open innovation center for biotech incubation and four plants for a total capacity of 720,000 liters. Upon the completion of Bio Campus II, Samsung Biologics will hold a capacity of 1.324 million liters.
Choi believes the company’s speed and agility sets it apart from other competitors.
“We wouldn’t be committed to building out capacity unless we were confident that there was solid demand and Plant 4 has been very active in terms of clients partnering with us to secure supply of their products,” he says.
The CDMO has also secured several large contracts with big pharma firms, most recently with Pfizer to manufacture its multi-product biosimilars portfolio.
“We see a healthy demand still in the market – primarily being driven by the increasing need for therapeutics and the continuous advancements in monoclonal antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) – and we’re making sure our clients can count on us so the supply to their patients is not interrupted by any shortage,” says Choi.
“Getting a product to market quickly entails tech transfer, manufacturing capability and doing it right the first time, but also building out the capacity with our plant construction so that clients can count on that scale being there when they need it, as they start planning out their long-range supply requirements.”
During the pandemic, Samsung Biologics was able to demonstrate this speed, completing the manufacturing and delivery of both Moderna’s Spikevax vaccine and Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody therapies within five months from the contract signing, while learning 'valuable' operational lessons.
“In terms of speed of tech transfer and getting regulatory approvals, that didn’t happen immediately. We were able to leverage our accumulated learnings to date, but it wouldn’t have been possible without our clients,” Choi adds.
“It’s a collaborative partnership that is critical to ensuring speed of execution. For Moderna and Eli Lilly, we worked in record time to get the regulatory approval and out to market for patients that were suffering from COVID.”
According to Choi, the company also honed its ability to 'anticipate, plan early and move fast.'
“As soon as COVID-19 broke out, we established a war room to monitor the situation, especially all of our critical raw materials to make sure that there was no interruption in supply for our clients,” he says.
“We worked with our partners on both ends, upstream and downstream, to ensure that the global supply was uninterrupted and that we had the right relationships and agreements in place.”
In March 2023, the company also made the strategic decision to open an office in New Jersey to strengthen its ties with US and European clients.
“We’ve been around for 12 years now and have been extremely successful by operating our sales division from our headquarters in South Korea, but 90% of our clients are in Europe and the US,” Choi says.
“From New Jersey, we are able to hold meetings on the spot, attend conferences like BIO International 2023 and engage our clients in a much more meaningful and frequent way than we would otherwise be able to from South Korea. The state is a great location, so we can also get to our European clients much faster and more frequently as well.”
Moving forward, with Samsung Biologics’ fifth plant set to launch in April 2025, Choi is excited by the innovation and execution the company is bringing to the wider biotech industry.
“By introducing the speed and innovation that we have, I think Samsung has really disrupted the market in a positive way. Until now, if you were to tell someone that we can construct a plant and have 180,000 liter capacity within 24 months, they would be understandingly skeptical. But we have proven that over and over again.”