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Samsung Biologics outlines mRNA ambitions as “Super Plant” speeds toward completion

Samsung Biologics has been on an expansion sprint, with plans to speedily complete a so-called Super Plant already giving way to designs on follow-up facilities in the CDMO’s South Korean home base. In addition, the manufacturing juggernaut is looking to widen its foothold overseas, and 2021 equipped it with the cash to back those ambitions up.

Samsung’s plans for the future are three-fold: The company will work to boost capacity, diversify its portfolio and increase its footprint abroad, the company said in a release Monday.

Samsung’s sales have grown in line with its expansion ambitions. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the company generated 444.3 billion South Korean won (about $371 million), charting an 18% increase over the same period in 2020. The CDMO reaped about 1.57 trillion South Korean won (some $1.31 billion) for the year.

Samsung credited its fourth-quarter boost to the increased usage of its South Korean facilities Plants 1 and 3, plus the acquisition of new contracts. The endurance of the COVID-19 pandemic has improved Samsung’s fortunes, too.

“With a steep increase in demand for medicines due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, there was a great need for CDMO capabilities around the world to ensure a reliable supply of high-quality biological products,” CEO John Rim said in a statement. “Samsung Biologics achieved solid growth and increased sales in an extraordinary year and made meaningful progress in building momentum around our long-term business and capacity,” he continued.

2021 also proved the year in which Samsung laid the groundwork for its mRNA business. The company pointed to its fill-finish pact with Moderna on its COVID-19 vaccine plus an mRNA vaccine manufacturing contract with Greenlight Biosciences.

Back home, the company’s huge plant 4 at Songdo in Incheon, South Korea, is due to come online six months ahead of schedule, Samsung said. The plant will be able to support operations up to 10,000 liters by the fourth quarter and 15,000 liters by the middle of next year. Once the plant is fully operational, it will boast a massive 620,000 liters of capacity, which Samsung notes should help solidify its spot as “the world’s largest CDMO.”

Samsung has big 2022 ambitions for Plant 5 too, where it’s planning to build out a new facility for multimodal product services like cell and gene therapies plus next-generation vaccines utilizing mRNA, plasmid DNA and viral vectors. Plant 5 will be stood up in addition to an mRNA vaccine drug substance manufacturing suite that’s expected to come online at Samsung’s existing Songdo facility “within the earlier part of this year.”

Samsung is also looking to pick up additional Songdo real estate to construct future plants plus an open innovation center. That’s to say nothing of its broader ambition to expand overseas in multiple locations, with a view to “maximize” manufacturing capacity and move closer to global clients, according to the CDMO. In the U.S., Samsung operates an R&D center in San Francisco, California.

In an interview last September, Samsung chief Rim told Fierce Pharma that speed was essential to Samsung’s operation. “We scale up very quickly. Speed, in terms of our expertise, in terms of delivering quality to our clients and regulatory authority, it’s second to none,” the CEO said. “When companies are taking four years, five years to build facilities, we can do that in two-and-a-half, three years.”