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Korea’s biopharmaceutical technology exports top ₩8 trillion wonTop 10 pharmaceutical stories in 2019 ⑧
  • By Jeong Sae-im
  • Published 2019.12.30 15:26
  • Updated 2019.12.31 10:18
  • comments 0

This year was a year where the word "safety" was particularly highlighted in the healthcare industry. The N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a potentially carcinogenic substance, which caused a ruckus after being detected in valsartan-based antihypertensive treatment last year, was further extended to ranitidine and nizatidine. Earlier this month, the medical community was startled when the carcinogenic substance was found in some metformin products, which is the most widely used diabetes treatment in Korea. Also, the importance of drug safety was further highlighted through Allergan's breast implant safety issue and Kolon Life Science's Invossa incident. Along with safety issues, Korea Biomedical Review looked back on major issues that have affected the medical industry this year. - Ed

This was a good year for Korean biopharmaceutical companies in licensing out their products. About 10 companies, from large companies to bioventures, succeeded in licensing out their products worth about 8.5 trillion won ($7.3 billion).

According to industry officials, this year showed that the R&D efforts of local companies are finally paying off.

Local companies that have announced license out agreements since January include Yuhan Corp., GC, Tium Bio, SK Biopharmaceutical, Olix, LegoChem Biosciences, Bridge Biotherapeutics, Alteogen, JW Pharmaceutical, GI Innovation, and Quratis.

Yuhan Corp. showed robust growth in the non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) market this year. In January and July, the company licensed out three drug candidates for NASH to Gilead Science and Boehringer Ingelheim, respectively. The total contracts with the two companies amounted to $1.65 billion, and the deal with Boehringer Ingelheim alone was about 1 trillion won.

Yuhan Corp. was not the only company to win a large-scale contract worth 1 trillion won this year.

Alteogen signed a $1.3 billion contract with one of the top 10 multinational pharmaceutical companies last November for its platform technology to convert intravenous (IV) formulations into subcutaneous (SC) formulations. As the contract is not exclusive, the company expects to sign additional agreements for the technology.

Bridge Biotherapeutics signed a contract worth 1.1 billion euros in July with the transfer of its idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis drug substance to Boehringer Ingelheim, while Quratis signed an exclusive deal to provide tuberculosis vaccine to an Indonesian state-owned enterprise for a total of 1.2 trillion won.

GI Innovation also signed a contract with Simcere, a Chinese pharmaceutical company, to exclusively license out its development and commercialization rights for its cancer drug in the Chinese market for 940 billion won.

Besides, SK Biopharmaceutical ($530 million), LegoChem Biosciences ($440 million), JW Pharmaceutical ($70 million), Tium Bio ($74 million), and GC (undisclosed) all successfully licensed out their drug candidate.

Notably, SK Biopharmaceutical recorded the largest down payment of $100 million with no obligation to return the fee. The company received sales approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Cenobamate, a treatment for partial-onset seizures in adults, on Nov. 11.

Through these contracts, the total license out deal amount has reached about 8.5 trillion won. Considering that companies that have signed private contracts with undisclosed amounts, industry officials expect that the actual license out fee will likely larger than the amount known to the public.

The amount is also well above last year's figure of about 5.4 trillion won and has raised expectations for 2020 as the nation is continuously setting new records annually.


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