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Germany’s Sartorius committed to K-biotech

Nov 11,2019
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Rene Faber
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Gottingen, Germany’s Sartorius specializes in providing bio-processing solutions and laboratory equipment for biopharmaceutical companies. [SARTORIUS GROUP]
GOTTINGEN, Germany - Sartorius Group is focused on growth in Asia and continues to take a special interest in Korea.

The $14-billion-market-cap German company specializes in providing bio-processing and laboratory solutions for the industry. Its Sartorius Stedim Biotech subsidiary is in charge of selling bio-processing solutions, while Sartorius Lab Holding focuses on the group’s lab business.

Sartorius has operated a branch in Korea since 1990 to sell its solutions to local biotech start-ups and pharmaceutical companies after announcing it would expand to the Asian market in the mid-1980s.

As the group plans to commit more to the Korean market, Sartorius invited a few reporters from the country to take a look at its headquarters and sit down with one of its executives for an interview last week.

“Asia is a strong market, and we have been working to continue building our business there with more clients,” said Rene Faber, head of the bio-processing solutions division and a member of the executive board at Sartorius.

“We are currently evaluating expanding our investment in Korea to get closer to our key customers.”

While no dates are set, Faber said Sartorius is contemplating a manufacturing facility for high value-added products near a bio cluster in Songdo, Incheon, which is home to leading local players like Samsung BioLogics and Celltrion.

Sartorius originally had no plan to build a manufacturing facility in Korea due to a lack of order volumes from clients in the country, but it is now considering it due to the rapid growth in the Korea biopharmaceutical market.

At the moment, the group operates 60 business sites and 22 production facilities in more than 30 countries. The company has business in more than 110 countries with sales subsidiaries and commercial agencies.

The German company is also planning to expand its logistics center in Korea while upgrading its lab facility, providing filter validation and viral clearance services with an enlarged portfolio of cell banking manufacturing and contract research services.

With those plans in mind, the Sartorius Stedim Biotech subsidiary ultimately aims to reach 2.8 billion euros ($3 billion) in sales revenue by 2025, largely helped by expanded business profits in Korea and other Asian countries.

Last year, Sartorius Stedim Biotech reported around 1.21 billion euros in sales revenue and earnings of 342 million euros. Around 23 percent of its sales revenue came from the Asia-Pacific region, and the proportion for Korea reaches around 22 percent, or the second-largest earning following China, for the region.

“Only one out of 10,000 new drug candidates reaches the market, and the way biopharmaceutical companies manufacture drugs today is very inefficient,” Faber said, mentioning the benefits of using Sartorius’s single-use solutions.

“We focus on our clients to improve that by helping them find the candidates and make them faster, so speeding up all the processes in an efficient way.”

Single-use systems, which manufacture smaller batches using disposable equipment, have been gaining popularity in the global biopharmaceutical sector as more small- and medium-sized players are jumping into drug development.

Many of them want to have their candidate drugs manufactured in smaller quantities to reduce uncertainties and spend less on maintenance, and single-use systems use disposable equipment to help companies speed up its development for drug products, especially those in the pre-clinical and clinical testing stages.

While most drug development processes, from discovery to commercialization, take more than 10 years and cost billions of dollars, Sartorius says the process can be shortened and made less expensive when using single-use solutions.

A large part of Sartorius’s 170,000-square-meter (1.8-million-square-foot) headquarters is dedicated to manufacturing single-use products, which accounts for around 75 percent of the Sartorius Stedim Biotech recurrent business.

The company firmly believes that single-use systems will be the ultimate solution for drug development in the future, saying every biopharmaceutical company will have to utilize it for cost efficiency and stability.

Sartorius says its single-use systems are definitely needed in Korea considering how fast the country has been growing its biopharmaceutical market and the pace of growth for key account Samsung BioLogics.

According to the company, Samsung BioLogics was provided an exemption to Sartorius' key account standards. While the German company usually provides that categorization to companies with multinational business bases, Samsung BioLogics was still considered a key account for having high growth potential and innovative capabilities despite having a manufacturing base only in Songdo.

“Samsung BioLogics is specially cared by Sartorius Group as it represents the rapid growth rate of the bio industry in Korea,” Faber said. “As one of Sartorius’s key accounts, Samsung BioLogics has regular conference calls and offline meetings with Sartorius Group as well as the key account management team in Korea.”

Sartorius certainly has big ambitions for the Korean market in partnership with Samsung BioLogics.

According to Faber, the company has been consistently rated as one of top-five players in the global bio-processing solution market with consistent quality products and ability to provide integrated solutions with uniqueness.

Its headquarters contains up-to-date training facilities for employees and training centers available for its clients and partners to test out Sartorius products as much as they want in a secured environment.

Faber boasts that Sartorius has never compromised on consistent product quality, even when competing with low-cost competitors, and that its products are embedded with high-tech features, like advanced artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud process monitoring and predictive process control platforms.

Sartorius is also open to changes and willing to innovate, Faber added.

“Our strategy to innovation is to significantly extend working partnerships with external partners,” Faber said.

“We work with many institutions, start-ups and other companies who provide competency in areas we don’t for the market.”

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]