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Korean bio IPOs to watch out for in 2021

An SK Bioscience researcher inspects vaccine vials. (SK Bioscience)
An SK Bioscience researcher inspects vaccine vials. (SK Bioscience)
After the explosive listing of SK Biopharmaceutical in June this year, initial public offerings of biologics companies are anticipated to continue their strong streak in 2021.

  Among those already known to be coming to the market next year, the ones attracting the most attention are SK Bioscience and HK inno.N, formerly CJ HealthCare.

  SK Bioscience, under SK Chemical and SK Discovery in SK Group’s governance structure, is a vaccine maker. The company boasts the world’s first cell-cultured flu vaccine that can target four different flu virus strains, a shingles vaccine and a chickenpox vaccine -- all developed independently.

  Since the COVID-19 pandemic, SK Bioscience has drawn the limelight for winning deals to contract manufacture COVID-19 vaccines developed by the UK‘s AstraZeneca and US’ Novavax.

  Questions were posed Thursday regarding the integrity of AstraZeneca’s vaccine trial data, consequently sending waves of concerns to those interested in SK Bioscience. AstraZeneca has said that the effects of its vaccine are to be fully determined through further reviews by scientists. An SK Bioscience official told The Korea Herald that as a manufacturing contractor, its role is to produce the ordered amount of vaccines, and details of the pipeline’s efficacy do not affect its business.

  Separately, SK Bioscience is also developing COVID-19 vaccines on its own. The NBP2001 pipeline was approved by the local drug authority to proceed to human clinical trials Wednesday, while GBP510 -- with $3.6 million funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations -- is undergoing animal trials.

  SK Bioscience announced in July that it will issue an IPO next year, with NH Investment & Securities and Korea Investment & Securities as the main underwriters.

  The announcement came on the heels of SK Biopharmaceutical’s IPO in June, which was 323 times oversubscribed.

  Combining the 1.7 trillion-won ($1.54 billion) COVID-19 vaccine contract manufacturing deals, the company‘s annual revenue from its next-generation pneumonia vaccine at 600 billion won and its life science business at 1 trillion won, the investment banking sector is estimating SK Bioscience’s corporate valuation to hover around 3 trillion won.

  Another player closely eyed by investors is HK inno.N, which has changed names from CJ HealthCare since Kolmar Korea acquired it in 2018.

  HK inno.N‘s valuation is estimated to reach approximately 2 trillion won, up 50 percent from the 1.3 trillion won at which Kolmar Korea bought it from CJ CheilJedang.

  Behind this rosy evaluation is HK inno.N’s gastric acid secretion inhibitor K-CAB tablets.

  K-CAB raked in 22.3 billion won in the first year after its launch in 2019, and has clocked 30.7 billion won in the first half of 2020. The industry expects K-CAB‘s annual prescriptions to amount to 60 billion won. 

  On Wednesday, HK inno.N announced that it was selected as a partner to MSD Korea for domestic distribution of the latter’s seven vaccines encompassing cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, Rotavirus vaccine Rotateq, a pneumonia vaccine, measles vaccine and Hepatitis A virus vaccine.

  The complete list of biologics IPOs lined up for 2021 compiled by Kiwoom Securities is as follows: ViGenCell, whose 29.5 percent stake is with Boryung Pharmaceutical; D&D Pharmatech, where Dongkoo Biopharma chipped in for 3.8 percent; GI Innovation, which has licensed out a combined 2.3 trillion won in deals to Yuhan Corp. and China‘s Simcere; NeoImmuneTech, owned 25.31 percent by Genexine; SK Bioscience, 98 percent owned by SK Chemical; HK inno.N, 50.7 percent owned by Kolmar Korea; Contera Pharma, owned 94.38 percent by Bukwang Pharm; Genosco, 73.6 percent owned by Oscotec; and Voronoi, which has licensed out a lung cancer treatment pipeline to US firm Oric Pharmaceuticals at 720 billion won.

  NeoImmuneTech and Genosco are based in the US, while Contera Pharma is located in Denmark.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)

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