Samsung Biologics plots $2B 'super plant' as COVID-19 sends sales through the roof

Samsung BioLogics
Samsung Biologics' newest plant is set to go online in 2022. (Samsung Biologics)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused shockwaves across the pharmaceutical industry with some drugmakers booking major losses in recent months. But the crisis hasn't been a bad thing for everyone: South Korea's Samsung Biologics, for instance, is swimming in new orders, and it's planning to build a long-awaited facility to celebrate. 

Samsung Biologics is plotting a $2 billion "Super Plant" at its Incheon, South Korea hub, with a footprint as large as its other three facilities combined, the CDMO said Monday.

The ambitious facility will encompass 2.56 million square feet of floor space and 256,000 liters of capacity—nearly doubling the CDMO's overall capacity to 620,000 liters, Samsung said. The plant is set to go online in 2022. 

Meanwhile, driven by a boost in sales tied to COVID-19, Samsung Biologics is negotiating to secure an additional campus in Incheon on 81.5 acres of land, the company said. The new site in the Incheon Free Economic Zone would become an "Open Innovation center to foster biotech companies and build a global R&D facility in addition to securing space for future plants within the new complex," Samsung said. 

Samsung's zealous expansion plans come as the COVID-19 pandemic has sent demand for its therapeutics through the roof in recent months. The company booked $1.5 billion in orders in the first half of 2020—a 150% increase over its 12-month total last year, according to a release.

RELATED: Samsung scores $362M deal to help Vir scale up COVID-19 antibody production

For instance, Samsung and Vir Biotechnology inked a $362 million deal in April to help scale manufacturing of the biotech's monoclonal antibody program as a potential treatment for COVID-19. 

As part of the agreement, Samsung will start manufacturing as early as October with its first engineering run and potentially begin producing commercial batches starting in 2021 from its Plant 3 facility. The partners hoped to knock out final terms of the deal by the end of July.

Vir is aiming to move its two most promising COVID-19 antibodies, VIR-7831 and VIR-7832, into phase 2 testing within the next three to five months, the drugmaker said. The Samsung deal followed similar agreements Vir has signed with Wuxi Biologics and Biogen, as well as an expanded RNAi partnership with Alnylam.

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline hands Samsung Biologics $231M to scale up manufacturing

Samsung followed that up with a $231 million pact with GlaxoSmithKline in May to ramp up production of lupus med Benlysta. 

The eight-year supply deal will start rolling out commercial doses of Benlysta in 2022, and the partners plan to expand the agreement to other GSK specialty-care products in the future.