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Celltrion operating profit rises 118% to it new record

Celltrion posted a record-setting second quarter report on Friday, citing Truxima’s rapid market uptake in the US and increased productivity at its reinforced plant No. 1 in Songdo, Incheon.

Celltrion’s second quarter revenue reached 428.8 billion won ($361.7 million), up 82.5 percent on-year, and operating profit hit 181.8 billion won, up 118 percent on-year. Both are the highest numbers Celltrion has reported in any quarter.

The company is confident it has ample power to generate more future growth, with biosimilar pipelines undergoing clinical trials, and a determination to expand presence in the global chemical drugs business.

Biosimilars are imitations of patent-expired biologics drugs. Unlike chemical drugs, whose generic products are carbon copies of chemical formulas, biologics drugs are made using living proteins and harder to reproduce exactly the same way. Therefore, biosimilars are named as “similar” to the original biologics drugs. They are more affordable than the blockbuster originals due to lower research and development costs. 

Celltrion’s Truxima is a rituximab biosimilar that is prescribed to treat blood cancer. It launched in the US in November, 2019, and quickly became a high-performing product for the company.

According to Symphony Healthcare, Truxima’s prescription rate in the US market in the second quarter had been 16.4 percent -- an encouraging two-digit percentage after just six months of release.

Additionally, the company’s infliximab biosimilar Remsima SC is receiving newfound attention in overseas markets amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to the convenience of patient’s self-administration of the drug. Remsima SC is an under-the-skin injection that comes in a pen shape, allowing patients to take care of themselves while socially distancing at home.

Celltrion said its plant No. 1’s added facilities are also jacking up manufacturing productivity.

Celltrion has a lot of irons in the fire. The company’s ambitious action plan states that it will gain one drug approval every year leading up to 2030.

Celltrion’s future product lines include CT-P17, an adalimumab Humira biosimilar for auto-immune diseases. CT-P17 has applied for European Medicines Agency’s approval in March.

Next up is CT-P39, a Xolair biosimilar that aims to treat allergic asthma and chronic idiopathic urticaria. CT-P39 is currently undergoing global phase 3 clinical trials.

Then there is CT-P16, a bevacizumab Avastin biosimilar for colon cancer, that is also carrying out global phase 3 clinical trials.

CT-P43, an ustekinumab Stelara biosimilar for psoriasis, started phase 1 clinical trial in the second quarter.

Apart from the biosimilars business, Celltrion is busily emboldening its chemicals business, too.

In June, it has made the bold move to acquire a unit from Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ Asia-Pacific business at the cost of 332.4 billion won.

The unit, called Primary Care, gives Celltrion the rights to 18 drug brands formerly owned by Takeda.

Through its biggest-ever acquisition deal, Celltrion said it has secured the essential treatments for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

In its own research and development, Celltrion’s independently developed human immunodeficiency virus treatment CT-G7 has gained a tentative approval from the US’ Food and Drug Administration in April.

Celltrion is currently building manufacturing lines specifically for CT-G7 at its plant No. 2 in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province.

As for the much-talked-about COVID-19 treatment candidate CT-P59, Celltrion is carrying out a phase 1 clinical trial in Korea on 32 healthy people with aims for completion in the third quarter.

The global clinical trial will be carried out in the UK, where Celltrion is recruiting participants. Celltrion’s COVID-19 treatment will finish development in the first half of 2021. The drug manufacturing will begin in September.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (