Biopharma playing second fiddle to chips and electronics in Samsung’s latest spending spree

Samsung has pledged a staggering $205 billion across its businesses through 2023, but how much of this will actually go to its biopharma businesses?

This week, Samsung announced plans to invest 240 trillion won ($205 billion) across its businesses over the next three years with approximately $154 billion of this being injected in its home country of South Korea. The plans drawn up include an astounding 40,000 new hires.

But while Samsung’s many business interests include life sciences and healthcare – primarily through its contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) entity Samsung Biologics and its biosimilar-focused biopharma division Samsung Bioepis – the size of the investment here may not be nearly as sensational as some of the pharma trade press are claiming.

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Samsung is South Korea’s largest conglomerate with an overall turnover equivalent to a fifth of the country’s national gross domestic product. The firm is a global leader across a range of technologies with biopharma, although on the up, being a relatively new business focus and still paling in significance to, say, its semiconductor and electronics businesses.

When as much as 80 percent of the 240 trillion won is predicted to support the semiconductor side alone, the question that arises is how much will be left for its fledgling biopharma divisions, specifically Biologics and Bioepis?

“We don’t have a breakdown by business we can share with you,” Kevin Cho, a spokesman for Samsung Electronics told BioProcess Insider.

“But I think you can interpret this [announcement] as a continuation of Samsung’s commitment to investing in strategic businesses such as semiconductors as well as the bio business. On Samsung Bioepis specifically, we did mention that the biosimilar business plans to invest on boosting and sophisticating the product development pipeline.”

Samsung Bioepis relies on third-party manufacturers to supply and scale-up its biosimilars, with much of the business going to its co-owners: Biogen and Samsung Biologics itself. Thus it’s unlikely any of the parent company investment will lead to inhouse manufacturing.

Samsung Biologics meanwhile, could benefit from these plans but having already laid out investment plans of its own and not responding to this publication when contacted to discuss that the parent company’s announcement means for its business, any percentages of the $205 billion can only be speculative.

In its 10-year history, the firm has invested in three operational plants at its site in Incheon boasting a total of 364,000 L mostly stainless-steel bioreactor capacity. A fourth ‘super plant’ announced last year is under construction at the site at a cost of over 2 trillion won ($2 billion), though this also includes the procurement of extra land at the site for future expansions.

The CDMO has also revealed in the past few months plans of to add mRNA capacity at its site on the back of global success for the modality in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, though financials of this expansion have not been divulged.

And in an interview with this publication as part of this year’s virtual BIO conference, the firm spoke of its ambitions to go from a CDMO to a top tier pharmaceutical company, though again financials were not discussed.

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