Samsung Biologics, the world’s largest contract development and manufacturing organization by capacity, has ambitious expansion plans.
The company’s trajectory — beginning with six 5,000-liter reactors and growing to its current 604,000 liters of capacity — mirrors the escalating demand for manufacturing capacity within the biopharmaceutical sector.
It’s currently planning the construction of a fifth plant, which will be the first plant to its second Bio Campus in Songdo, South Korea. The plant is set to increase Samsung Biologics’ capacity to 784,000 liters by April 2025. Construction of the fifth plant began just months after the company’s fourth plant became fully operational in June 2023. This is an aggressive expansion strategy, but it’s tailored to the increasing CDMO demand and is indicative of a broader growth trend within the CDMO industry, where scalability and flexibility are becoming paramount to meet the diverse needs of pharmaceutical clients.
“Anticipating further demand, we broke ground on Plant 5 in our second Bio Campus, which is 30% larger in terms of land mass compared to our current campus, with enough square footage for four mega plants,” said James Choi, executive vice president, chief marketing officer and head ofglobal public affairs at Samsung Biologics, in a recent interview. “First and foremost, clients need manufacturing capacity at the right scale at the specified schedule of their launch to meet demands. We ensure that the supply will be uninterrupted.”
Growing CDMO Demand
Choi’s comments are backed up by a string of contracts that Samsung Biologics has recently signed with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. It recently announced a $897 million deal with Pfizer, with plans to utilize the newly constructed fourth plant to produce biosimilars. This was followed by an agreement with Novartis for $391 million.
The deals are part of Samsung Biologics’ busiest year to date. Its revenue in Q2 2023 increased 33.0% from Q2 2022, and its net profit of 184.9 billion South Korean won (about $138.5 million) was up 21.6% year over year.
Choi explained that the CDMO’s “604,000 liters of capacity serve 14 of the top 20 major global pharmas along with many midsize biotechs worldwide.”
This expansion tracks with a broader industry trend, as many pharmaceutical companies are outsourcing manufacturing in order to focus more resources on development. In addition, developments in emerging, advanced modalities such as mRNA vaccines and antibody-drug conjugates have led to a pivot toward biopharmaceuticals. Some of the world’s most-prescribed medications are now biologic drugs, and there’s optimism within the industry for developing biologic treatments for conditions ranging from cancer to HIV.
In line with these developments, Samsung Biologics has invested in diversifying its portfolio, including a full acquisition of biosimilars manufacturer Samsung Bioepis last year, in addition to investments in upstarts Jaguar Gene Therapy, Senda Biosciences, and Araris Biotech AG.
Amid this expansion push, Samsung Biologics and the broader pharmaceutical industry are considering their environmental footprint.
“Since they are responsible for global health, pharma companies are taking the lead and making commitments to climate change goals and analyzing the sources of their carbon emissions,” said Choi.
For Samsung Biologics, “taking the lead” involves participation in multiple sustainability initiatives, such as the Sustainable Markets Initiative led by His Majesty King Charles III, as well as an explicit commitment to achieving net-zero emissions and utilizing renewable energy sources across its operations. This commitment is outlined in a recently released environmental, social, and governance report.
The ESG report is emblematic of a larger industry shift toward ecological responsibility, and the CDMO’s efforts to reduce emissions across three areas — direct, indirect, and supply chain-related — reflect a growing awareness of the dispersed environmental impact of pharmaceutical manufacturing.
In the report, Samsung Biologics details plans to reduce Scope 1 emissions from its manufacturing operations and site; Scope 2 emissions from purchased electricity, steam, heat, and cooling; and Scope 3 emissions indirectly associated with the company’s processes via the broader supply chain.
“As a service provider we are part of Scope 3,” said Choi. “In order for the pharma industry to achieve their net-zero targets, their suppliers, like CDMOs, must be just as committed to match or exceed these targets.”
A Microcosm of Industry Trends
Samsung Biologics’ recent announcements provide a snapshot of the evolving landscape of the CDMO industry. The company’s expansion strategy, focus on sustainability, and investment in new technologies are not isolated developments but rather reflections of broader trends shaping the pharmaceutical sector.
The company’s approach offers insights into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. In aligning its growth with industry demands and global climate goals and exploring new therapeutic areas, Samsung Biologics provides a case study in how a CDMO can navigate the complex interplay of scalability, compliance, sustainability, and innovation in a fast-changing biopharmaceutical landscape.