Pharmaceuticals in South Korea could drive economy's growth

Hanmi Science and biosimilar maker Celltrion in South Korea are being touted as leading the charge for the country's pharma sector to be the next engine of growth. Both companies have market caps approaching $9 billion and are spending heavily on research and development to move ahead of their larger but "less nimble" competition, according to a report by the Nikkei Asian Review. Celltrion in November submitted a biosimilar approval application to the cancer drug rituximab to the European Medicines Agency where the drug went off patent in 2013 and will also lose patent protection in the United States in 2016. The drug is currently patented by ($BIIB). Hanmi could be considered the Microsoft ($MSFT) of South Korea's drug development industry for its expertise in developing the drugs and then licensing the treatments to pharma majors globally for further development, Nikkei reported, much like Microsoft licenses Windows to PC makers. That began to change in 2011 when CEO Lee Gwan-sun took over and stepped up R&D spending for new drugs with the company focusing on diabetes, obesity and cancer drugs. Report