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Technology Exports by Korean Pharmaceutical Firms on the Rise Again
More Firms License out New Drug Candidates
Technology Exports by Korean Pharmaceutical Firms on the Rise Again
  • By Choi Moon-hee
  • November 6, 2018, 15:38
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A growing number of Korean pharmaceutical and biotech companies take on the challenge of exporting their drug technologies abroad.

Korean pharmaceutical and biotech companies have signed seven out-licensing contracts worth US$2.375 billion so far this year. This figure is nearly twice the figure of US$1.234 billion in eight deals. Industry analysts say that technology exports by Korean pharmaceutical and biotech industry are in their heyday.

This year, pharmaceutical companies such as Yuhan Corp., JW Pharmaceutical Corp. and Dong-A ST had great performance. It is different from last year when technology exports were led by biotech companies such as HanAll Biopharma and Genexine.

On Nov. 5, Yuhan Corp. announced that it has signed a US$1.255 billion deal with Janssen Biotech to develop and commercialize its lung cancer treatment dubbed “Lazertinib.” The deal is the second largest drug technology export by a Korean pharmaceutical company.

The biggest export deal of South Korea's pharmaceutical and biotech industry was the Quantum Project in 2015, in which Hanmi Pharmaceutical licensed out its new drug candidates to Sanofi for 3.9 billion euros (about 5 trillion won). The value of the deal was later reduced to 2.82 billion euros (about 3.6 trillion won) as some contracts were canceled.

Considering that the Quantum Project has combined three contracts, Yuhan Corp.’s Lasertinib deal is the largest single contract. Hanmi Pharmaceutical's Olita, a lung cancer treatment like Lasertinib, was sold to Boehringer Ingelheim in 2015 for $690 million, but the contract was canceled. Yuhan Corp.’s Lazertinib is about 1.5 times highly valued than Olita.

Experts note that the success stories of drug technology exports originating from Hanmi Pharmceutical in 2015 are spreading throughout the domestic pharmaceutical and biotech industry. The types of out-licensing deals and the range of companies involved in technology export have become diverse. It is also positive that companies with licensing experience have once again achieved results.

An industry official said, "In Korea’s golf world, there is the 'Pak Se-ri effect.' Many young girls took up golf following Pak Se-ri’s victory at the 1998 U.S. Women's Open. Following Hanmi Pharmaceutical’s resounding success, more and more Korean pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms are taking on the challenge of exporting their drug technologies. It is evidence that domestic companies have accumulated development capabilities."