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Celltrion to build first overseas plant, triple production capacity plan

South Korean biopharma firm likely to rise as the world’s second-largest manufacturer by 2021

South Korean biopharma company Celltrion will begin preparations to build its first overseas production plant this year and confirm a site for the biologics facility before June, its Chairman Seo Jeong-jin announced Thursday.

Celltrion will also expand the production capacity of its upcoming overseas plant -- its third facility -- to 360,000 liters, which is triple the capacity that the drugmaker had initially planned for the new plant.

The upcoming facility, which Celltrion plans to start building before the end of the year, will ensure stable supplies as well as leverage on economies of scale to further lower the prices of its biosimilar drugs, Seo said.

The chairman’s remarks came during the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, California, where he presented the company’s future business goals and vision in front of global investors and potential clients. 

Celltrion Chairman Seo Jeong-jin (right) delivers a presentation during the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco on Thursday (Celltrion)
Celltrion Chairman Seo Jeong-jin (right) delivers a presentation during the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco on Thursday (Celltrion)

Headquartered in Incheon’s Songdo, Celltrion specializes in making biosimilars -- cheaper near-replicas of biologic drugs whose patents have expired. It currently sells biosimilars referencing blockbuster biologics including Remicade, Rituxan and Herceptin.

Its Remicade-referencing biosimilar, Remsima, is being sold in the US and Europe, while its Truxima and Herzuma, referencing Rituxan and Herceptin respectively, have been launched in Europe.

During his presentation, Seo highlighted the strength of Celltrion’s drug pipeline, comparing Celltrion to the likes of global pharma companies such as Amgen and Roche-owned Genentech.

He further pledged to smoothly carry out clinical trials for the company’s newest biosimilars, including those referencing Humira and Avastin. In the case of Humira, Celltrion plans to develop its biosimilar as a high-concentrate formula to set itself above competitive products.

In the case of Avastin, Celltrion expects to become the first company worldwide to bring an Avastin-referencing biosimilar to the market, kicking off its sales with a “first-mover advantage,” Seo said.

Other drugs in development by Celltrion include a subcutaneous version of Remsima -- an SC version of Remicade is not yet available in the market -- as well as antibody biologics candidates including CT-P27, which targets the Influenza A virus and a new vaccine for pneumonia.

Looking ahead, Celltrion is interested in investing in the medical device business, as it eyes big opportunities in the telemedicine and next-generation diagnostics market, according to Seo. The firm plans to make strategic investments in these businesses in the years ahead, he said.

By Sohn Ji-young (