Korea's Celltrion blueprints $514M biologics plant in China, beefing up biosimilar, contract manufacturing
The Chinese city of Wuhan might have sprung to worldwide infamy for the coronavirus outbreak originating from one of its seafood markets, but if Celltrion has its way, it will become known as a center of biologics manufacturing.
The Korean biosimilars maker has budgeted $514 million (₩600 billion) over five years for a new plant in Wuhan, which it says will be China’s biggest biologics facility at a capacity of 120,000 liters. A groundbreaking ceremony is slated for April.
Celltrion is kicking off the new decade with ambitious goals including faster copycat launches and even new drug development, chairman Jung-jin Seo indicated at the JP Morgan healthcare conference last week.
“As we chart the company’s 2030 vision, the company hopes to launch one biosimilar product every year, reaching a total number of 18 products by 2030,” Seo said in a statement. “Biosimilars and value added medicines which we call ‘bioinnovatives’(innovative biosimilars) are set to be our key growth drivers in 2020.”
The new facility in Wuhan — Celltrion’s first site in China — is designed to develop and manufacture their own biologics for the local market, as well as performing contract work for the emerging wave of Chinese biotechs.
There’s a logistical advantage in shipping products all around the country from Wuhan, the capital of the inland province of Hubei, a Celltrion rep told the Korea Herald. The exec also praises the city for its “fast-growing bioindustry cluster,” though it’s nowhere near Shanghai’s hub status.
The municipal government signed a partnership agreement with the company on Tuesday.
Last summer Celltrion signaled its interest in entering China through a joint venture deal with Hong Kong’s Nan Fung Group. The partners set up a company dubbed Vcell around three FDA- and EMA- approved biosimilars — Remsima (Remicade knockoff), Truxima (Rituxan knockoff) and Herzuma (Herceptin knockoff) — to try to get them through Chinese regulators to the market.
As part of that pact, Celltrion also said it would be exploring a facility in the country.
Celltrion will be entering a crowded market with well-heeled rivals — Innovent and Henlius on the biosimilar side and WuXi on the CDMO side, to list a few. But as China adds more biologics to the National Reimbursement Drug List and implements a new system of procuring drugs for hospitals in a bid to contain healthcare costs, there’s plenty of room for competition.