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LG sees new 5-in-1 vaccine as cash cow

LG Life Sciences, the biopharmaceuticals unit of LG Group, is emerging as a stronger player in the nation’s pharma industry as it gears up to export its newly developed 5-in-1 multifunctional vaccine Eupenta globally.

“We are expecting to receive the World Health Organization’s prequalification (PQ) approval of the new vaccine within one to two weeks, becoming eligible to join the United Nation’s procurement bid for 5-in-1 vaccines as early as next year,” a LG Life Sciences spokesperson told The Korea Herald.

LG Life Sciences’ 5-in-1 vaccine Eupenta (LG Life Sciences)
LG Life Sciences’ 5-in-1 vaccine Eupenta (LG Life Sciences)

Eupenta, developed exclusively by LG, is able to protect against five different childhood diseases -- diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and meningitis -- with a single injection.

Given the difficulties in production and stringent quality control regulations, only six companies in the world, including global pharma giant Roche, have met the WHO’s 5-in-1 vaccine PQ standards. LG is now set to join this small pool with the introduction of Eupenta.

The Korean drugmaker said it was expecting to rack up about 100 billion won ($86 million) in fresh revenue once the PQ approval made the firm eligible to supply its new vaccine to U.N.-affiliated organizations like UNICEF and PAHO, the key buyers of the five-way vaccines, as long as it was able to edge ahead of some rival products.

If LG can secure roughly 20-25 percent of the WHO’s total procurement quota, valued at around 400 billion won, it will be able to channel in around 100 billion won in steady revenue annually, the company explained.

The company is planning to participate in the upcoming U.N. procurement bids announced sporadically and in varying scales throughout the year. The nearest one is reportedly slated to open in the first quarter of 2016.

Though it may be difficult to hit its target immediately, LG is expecting a positive outlook for the sales of Eupenta, given its strong track record in exporting its flagship hepatitis B vaccine Euvax B to U.N. agencies.

“The company’s stated target procurement quota is quite viable, equating revenues of around 80-100 billion won when taking the size of the (U.N. procurement) market into account,” said Samsung Securities analyst Kim Seung-woo.

In preparation for this scale of production, LG Life Sciences has invested around 260 billion won in expanding its vaccine production plant in Osong, North Chungcheong Province. The enlarged plant will produce Eupenta alongside Euvax B starting next year.

In addition to securing steady supply deals with U.N. affiliates, LG is also looking to export Eupenta to China, as well as countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America in the coming years.

“It will take some time before LG Life Sciences can enter China and markets in other regions, as the firm will have to pass additional regulations and strike local marketing partnerships,” said the Samsung Securities analyst.

As LG’s vaccine business is forecast to take off starting next year, industry attention is being focused on whether the firm can rise up as the top exporter among local pharmaceutical companies as well.

LG Life Sciences’ total export volume stood at 133.8 billion in the January-September period, fourth after market leader Hanmi Pharmaceutical (177 billion won), Yuhan Corp. (155.7 billion won) and Green Cross (149 billion), according to the companies’ regulatory findings.

By Sohn Ji-young (