Biogen Idec has linked up with South Korean electronics giant Samsung to develop and sell biosimilars.

The firms are setting up a joint venture in Korea, which will be dominated by Samsung. Specifically, the latter will contribute $255 million of the $300 million for an 85% stake and Biogen will put in the other $45 million for a 15% holding.

Biogen is working with the Samsung Biologics unit, which is itself a JV set up in April this year with Quintiles Transnational Corp and is focused on biopharmaceutical manufacturing. The US biotech major added that its as-yet-unnamed venture will not be looking at biosimilars of Biogen’s products.

George Scangos, Biogen's chief executive, said the future of healthcare will continue to be driven by innovation "but it will also be about ensuring patients have access to cost-effective therapies, and biosimilars will play an important role in that". He added that the deal "will allow us to leverage our world-class protein engineering and biologics manufacturing capabilities, while maintaining focus" on its core businesses of neurodegenerative diseases, haemophilia and autoimmune disorders.

Commenting on the deal at the FT Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology conference in London, Biogen's head of corporate development Steve Holtzman noted that previously it "made no sense" for the company to go into biosimilars but linking up with an expert with Samsung is a great deal, especially as the latter is putting in most of the cash.

Tae-Han Kim, Samsung Biologics chief executive, said that by combining Biogen’s expertise in biologics "with our business acumen and proven record of success in new business development, we are taking a significant step toward becoming a major player in the biopharmaceutical industry and investing in an important growth engine".