Quintiles Transnational continues to widen its remit beyond core contract research services, forming a strategic partnership to help ease the entry of Samsung, South Korea’s largest conglomerate, into the biopharmaceutical market.

The US-based biopharmaceutical services company is investing around US$30 million for a 10% minority stake in a new joint venture with Samsung to provide contract manufacturing in South Korea.  

The strategic partnership with Samsung Electronics Co, Ltd, the world’s largest electronics player, and affiliated Samsung companies involves constructing a biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in the Incheon Free Economic Zone in Songdo, South Korea. Groundbreaking is scheduled for the first half of this year, with full-scale operations expected to start at the plant in April 2013.  

Samsung will own the remaining 90% of the joint venture company, with shares distributed as follows: Samsung Electronics Co, Ltd, 40%; Samsung Everland, Inc, 40%; and Samsung C&T Corporation, 10%. According to local reports, the venture will be capitalised at 300 billion won or around US$266 million. Samsung announced last May that it would be investing 23 trillion won in five new businesses, including biopharmaceuticals, by 2020.

The plan is to start with contract manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals, mostly for sale on international markets, and then to move into the development and commercialisation of biosimilars by 2016. Samsung is talking about forming another joint venture for that purpose this year. The longer-term objective is to expand further into developing innovative biological products. 

South Korea has a long history of manufacturing biologics, and the country is expected to emerge as a global leader in biosimilar R&D following its introduction of a regulatory pathway for generic versions of biological drugs in 2009.

Samsung is determined to be part of that trend, while its tie-up with Quintiles offers parallels with the strategic alliance announced in January by Merck Bioventures and Parexel, under which the Merck & Co unit is accessing  clinical development services at Parexel for certain broad classes of biosimilars.

Last October, Quintiles marked a 10-year presence in South Korea by announcing a strategic alliance with the Seoul National University Hospital as part of its Prime Site programme to bolster local infrastructures for clinical trials. The US company sees its partnership with Samsung both as underpinning its ambitions for growth in the Asian region and as reinforcing its role as an ally in the evolving ‘New Health’ landscape. 

“This strategic partnership illustrates how Quintiles can use its resources and expertise across the clinical, commercial, consulting and capital spectrum to help companies achieve their strategic goals,” said Anand Tharmaratnam, senior vice president and head of Asia markets for Quintiles. “We’re also very pleased to drive innovation and advance the role of South Korea in the global biopharmaceutical industry.”

The Songdo plant will be fully equipped with cutting-edge technologies and an 8,000-gallon (30,000-litre) mammalian cell culture bioreactor capable of producing 1,300 pounds (600 kilogrammes) of biopharmaceutical products, Quintiles noted.