South Korea remains an attractive prospect for biologics and biosimilars, with investment from both government and multinationals in this field.
South Korea has a long history in manufacturing biologics. The emergence of a number of Korean companies, including SK Chemicals and Chon Kun Dang, manufacturing generic versions of Roche’s Tamiflu (oseltamivir), indicates that some Korean companies are performing strongly. It also indicates that larger companies in the biosimilar sector have made considerable strides in R&D, manufacturing and distribution in recent years. SK Chemicals, for example, believes that it could have its version of oseltamivir for sale in less than a month after marketing approval is given. This is arguably the result of massive investment in this sector from both government agencies and multinational companies.
First of all, in August 2009 the government announced it had selected two provincial cities, Osong and Daegu, to become sites for high-tech medical-industrial clusters, which are expected to cost around US$5 billion in total. Construction began in 2009 and should be completed by 2012. The government hopes the project will make South Korea a regional pharmaceutical hub like the Boston Bio Cluster in the USA and the Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto triangle in Japan. This was followed by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis announcing in October 2009 that they will be investing US$100 million into its research division for new drugs whilst also bolstering its biologics manufacturing capabilities. In a deal signed with the MIHWAF, Novartis also announced that they will be providing money for investment in local small-scale biologics manufacturers.
Further reading - A detailed analysis of the South Korean pharmaceutical market is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: South Korea (published January 2010)