UPDATED: Bristol-Myers turns to Samsung for cancer drug

Samsung BioLogics has said that its manufacturing prowess will enable it to make biologic drugs more cheaply than about anyone else. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) intends to find out, picking the South Korean company for a 10-year pact for making cancer drug Yervoy.

According to PharmaTimes, commercial production for the melanoma drug will begin directly following the necessary regulatory approvals, and a BMS spokeswoman told the Times that Samsung will be making bulk drug substance for Yervoy for markets other than the U.S. The companies said Monday that BMS will immediately begin technology transfer and that trial production is expected to begin this month at Samsung's plant in Songdo Incheon, South Korea. Terms of the deal were not offered.

"Our agreement with Samsung is an important part of our company's overall manufacturing and supply strategy focused on creating long-term relationships with high quality manufacturing partners around the world," Louis Schmukler, president of global manufacturing and supply for BMS, said in a statement. "This agreement increases our biologic manufacturing capacity to help ensure sufficient long-term supply of our commercial products."

In 2011, Samsung, with an investment from Quintiles ($Q), mapped out a drug-production plan, wagering that its expertise in low-cost manufacturing would help it churn out complex biologic drugs, including biosimilars, at competitive prices. Within months, Biogen Idec ($BIIB) put some money up to become a part of the deal. Samsung has pledged a $2 billion investment in its drug-manufacturing business through 2020.

Last year, a Samsung exec boasted that the company could make biosimilars at half the cost of what Western drugmakers would have to charge. "It is in Samsung's DNA to produce products at low prices while meeting legal and industry requirements," Tae-Han Kim, president and CEO of Samsung BioLogics, said. In February, Merck ($MRK) dropped its own venture into biosimilar production and instead decided to partner with Samsung.

The South Korean company said Monday that it had recently completed its plant in Songdo Incheon. The 740,000-square-foot facility has 6 5,000-liter stainless mammalian cell culture bioreactors. It says the plant can produce up to 1,300 pounds (600 kilograms) of biopharmaceutical products a year.

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