Major Korean pharmaceuticals up R&D budget in 2023 to expand pipelines

2023.03.13 13:32:01 | 2023.03.13 13:34:55

[Photo provided by JW Pharmaceutical]이미지 확대

[Photo provided by JW Pharmaceutical]



South Korea’s major pharmaceutical companies are significantly increasing their research and development budgets this year to expand their pipelines after posting record results last year.

These companies plan to focus on research areas that will be future sources of growth, such as antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), artificial intelligence-based drug development platforms and messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) therapeutics.

According to sources on Sunday, JW Pharmaceutical Co., which achieved its best sales performance last year, plans to allocate about 100 billion won ($76 million) to R&D this year. Last year, the company’s R&D expenses were about 60 billion won, or about 9 percent of its sales of 684.4 billion won. This year, it plans to increase this proportion to 12 percent to put its pipeline on a more feasible track. It will begin global Phase 3 clinical trials of Epaminurad, an oral gout treatment targeting urate transporter-1 (URAT1). This drug inhibits URAT1 and promotes uric acid excretion. The company will also accelerate preclinical studies of its hair loss treatment JW0061 and targeted cancer drug JW2286. Both agents are expected to enter clinical trials next year.

LG Chem Ltd.’s life science business, which achieved its highest sales of 909 billion won last year, is also increasing its R&D budget this year. The company plans to spend about 400 billion won in R&D this year, up by 45 percent from 276 billion won in 2023. Along with developing new drugs for metabolic diseases, the company plans to expand its research in oncology.

The company will continue global Phase 3 clinical trials of tigulixostat, a gout treatment. It’s also expected to enter Phase 2 clinical trials for a rare obesity drug and Phase 1 clinical trials for a cell therapy to treat cancer this year. LG Chem will expand its oncology research by adding the pipeline of U.S.-based AVEO Oncology acquired by LG Chem last year, while accelerating clinical trials to expand the use of AVEO’s investigative cancer drug Fotivda, said a LG Chem official.

[Photo provided by Chong Kun Dang]이미지 확대

[Photo provided by Chong Kun Dang]



Other big Korean pharmaceuticals like Chong Kun Dang Corp., Hanmi Pharmaceutical Co. and GC Biopharma Corp. are expected to increase their R&D budgets this year as their revenue growth is projected to continue.

In particular, Chong Kun Dang and Hanmi Pharmaceutical are set to focus on discovering ADC pipeline this year. ADC, or antibody-drug conjugate, is a drug that attaches chemical toxins to antibodies that selectively bind to tumor cells and kill them.

Chong Kun Dang plans to maintain its R&D spending ratio at around 12 percent of its revenue, similar to last year, and will focus on developing ADC as a new research field, along with gene therapy medicines. Last year the company signed a deal to license ADC technology from Netherlands-based biotech firm Synaffix.

Hanmi Pharmaceutical is expected to spend 15 percent of its revenue on R&D projects, expanding its rare disease, metabolic disease and oncology pipeline in addition to ADC and bispecific antibody.

GC Biopharma plans to allocate 10 percent of its revenue to R&D this year, which will be used to secure next-generation platform technologies, such as mRNA. The mRNA instructs the creation of proteins that generate antibodies against viruses in the body. The company recently exercised an option for a license agreement with Canada’s Acuitas for lipid nanoparticle (LNP), a delivery system that safely transports nanoparticles into cells so that mRNA can function properly.

Dong-A ST Co., another leading pharmaceutical company, plans to establish innovative platform technologies such as PROTAC, a protein degradation technology, as part of its R&D project this year. PROTAC is designed to maximize the pathway for breaking down improperly made proteins within cells. The company plans to spend about 13 percent of its revenue on R&D expenses this year, focusing on areas such as cancer treatment, immunology, neurodegenerative disorders, endocrinology, digestive system and musculoskeletal system.

By Shin Yoo-kyung and Minu Kim

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