Samsung broadens its drugs business

Samsung has entered the drug sector on a fast timeline, industry analysts say | Photo: istock
The Samsung conglomerate is furthering its efforts to build a full-fledged prescription-drugs business, signing its first deal to develop novel drugs for hard-to-treat diseases.

Samsung, best known for its smartphones and television sets, is forming a partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. TKPYY 1.19% of Japan to jointly fund and develop multiple treatments in coming years, the companies said in a written statement. The companies plan to begin immediate development of a drug to treat severe acute pancreatitis.

Financial terms of the alliance weren’t disclosed.

Acute pancreatitis is a painful condition marked by inflammation of the pancreas. Mild cases might go away without treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic. But about one-tenth of patients die as a result of the disease and many have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, according to the National Pancreas Foundation of the US

Samsung Bioepis Co., the South Korean group’s five-year-old biopharmaceutical company, had centred its strategy on creating near-replicas of rivals’ blockbuster biologic drugs. The decision to branch into novel treatments represents an aggressive and risky step by Samsung.

Just one in 10 drugs that make it to human testing wind up getting approved, according to drug researchers. Companies can spend more than a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars working on an experimental drug.

Yet the commercial potential can be large. The lucrative biologics market is expected to generate $214 billion in sales this year, according to EvaluatePharma, a source of pharmaceutical market data and analysis. Revenues are projected to reach $276 billion in 2020.

Samsung has entered the drug world on a fast timeline, industry analysts say. The privately held Bioepis unit’s association with South Korea’s largest conglomerate gives it resources to invest heavily in research and development.

Samsung started to make available its lower-price copy of Johnson & Johnson ‘s Remicade, a blockbuster rheumatoid-arthritis drug, in the U.S. last month.

In Europe, Samsung sells that drug and another rheumatoid-arthritis treatment. Two other drugs are under European regulatory review.

The creation of novel treatments has been a goal for Samsung, said Mingi Hyun, a spokesman for Bioepis. “At this stage of our company’s development, we believe this is the next logical step,” he added.

Samsung has also spoken with a number of other multinational pharmaceutical and biotech companies to pursue partnerships similar to the Takeda effort, Mr. Hyun said.

For Takeda, the partnership’s first project will be in the area of gastrointestinal disease, a focus of the Japanese drugmaker.

“This partnership with Samsung Bioepis combines Takeda’s unique capabilities in gastroenterology with fresh and innovative approaches, thereby allowing us to maximize the potential for successful introduction of important medicines to patients,” said Daniel Curran, Takeda’s head of external innovation.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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