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AstraZeneca to invest big in local biopharm

European company is committing $210M to research, development
Dec 20,2019
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Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yun-mo, second row far left, AstraZeneca Chairman Leif Johansson, second row center, and Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo, second row far right, stand while Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization Chairman Seo Jeong-sun, first row far left, Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency CEO Kwon Pyung-oh, first row second from left, AstraZeneca Korea President Kim Sang-pyo, first row third from left, Korea Health Industry Development Institute Director Kwon Deok-cheol, first row second from right, and Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association Chairman Won Hee-mok, first row far right, sign a memorandum of understanding. [ASTRAZENECA]
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AstraZeneca Chairman Leif Johansson, right, exchanges a commemorative plaque with SK Holdings CEO Jang Dong-hyun on Thursday to celebrate their partnership in treating 3 million Type 2 diabetes patients in 98 countries since signing an agreement in January 2018. [ASTRAZENECA]
AstraZeneca is investing $210 million in the Korean biopharmaceutical industry’s research and development (R&D) efforts to help local players increase their global competitiveness.

Through the investment announced Wednesday, the Cambridge, England-based, British-Swedish multinational biopharmaceutical company is seeking to cultivate potential partnership business opportunities.

The $210 million is just the beginning. AstraZeneca committed a total of $630 million through 2024 to biotech and health care in Korea during the Korea-Sweden Business Summit held in Stockholm in June.

AstraZeneca, which reported $22.1 billion in total revenue last year, said the investment is geared toward contributing to Korea’s vision to raise its share in the global biohealth sector from 2 percent to 6 percent by 2030.

During another Korea-Sweden Business Summit, held Wednesday during Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s visit to Korea, AstraZeneca Chairman Leif Johansson signed a memorandum of understanding for the investment and future collaboration with four agencies in Korea.

The agencies are the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association.

The signing ceremony was attended by Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yun-mo and Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo.

“As a major investor for Korea’s R&D projects and an innovative pharmaceutical company selected by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, AstraZeneca is honored to ink a partnering relationship with the four agencies trusted in Korea,” Johansson said in a statement.

“Through the agreement, we wish to strengthen innovation in the Korean biohealth industry and ultimately contribute to Korea’s health and well-being.”

Under the agreement, AstraZeneca is expanding open innovation opportunities for new drug development for cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, respiratory disorders and cancers. It is also helping Korean companies organize clinical trials and develop their R&D portfolios by transferring manufacturing and quality assurance technologies.

The four Korean entities agreed to utilize AstraZeneca’s health care innovation hub, a global network for health care innovation, to stimulate R&D progress and exports for the local biohealth sector and create educational programs to foster local talent.

The four entities are also planning to collaborate with AstraZeneca to find ways to utilize artificial intelligence technology in drug development.

During his visit to Korea, Johansson celebrated Thursday with SK Biotek, AstraZeneca’s partner for treating 3 million diabetes patients in 98 countries since January 2018.

Under the agreement, worth $100 million per year and signed last year, SK Biotek, a 100 percent owned subsidiary of SK Holdings, has been contract manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) for AstraZeneca’s blockbuster Type 2 diabetes treatment Farxiga at its factory in Ireland.

SK acquired the Ireland manufacturing facility previously owned by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2017 and named it SK Biotek Ireland.

SK Holdings is expected to open SK Pharmteco in Sacramento, California, in January. It will serve as a sub-holding company managing overseas business for the conglomerate’s three contract manufacturing organizations: SK Biotek, SK Biotek Ireland and Ampac Fine Chemicals.

“We expect to strengthen our partnership through SK Pharmteco by expanding our API manufacturing for more diseases,” said SK Holdings CEO Jang Dong-hyun in a statement.

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