Yuhan Corporation’s chief executive Cho Wook-je. [Photo by Lee Seung-hwan]
South Korea’s Yuhan Corporation is planning to construct a new factory in Eumseong, Chungbuk, as part of its global expansion strategy for Leclaza (lazertinib mesylate monohydrate), a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. The move will help strengthen quality control (QC) and increase operating profit margins.
Leclaza, a second-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, received approval for an additional indication as a first-line treatment at the end of June.
According to the company’s chief executive Cho Wook-je, the facility expansion project is also a proactive measure to meet the high standards of multinational pharmaceutical companies and serve as a global production base for global clients. In a recent interview with Maeil Business Newspaper at the company’s headquarters in Noryangjin, Seoul, Cho emphasized that when applying for approval in the global market, pharmaceutical companies are always asked about the location of the drug’s manufacturing facility. Changing this location requires separate approval.
“Global pharmaceutical companies are wary of the multi-product production methods frequently used in domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities due to concerns about potential contamination,” Cho said.
“Manufacturing Leclaza in a separate facility near the existing Ochang plant is also a measure in preparation for its global expansion.”
Cho, a veteran in the pharmaceutical sales department who has been with Yuhan for over 30 years, has seen the company’s long-standing goals gradually taking shape since becoming CEO in March 2021.
Expanding manufacturing facilities is one of those objectives and Yuhan currently has secured new factory sites in Eumseong, Chungbuk, alongside its existing Ochang location. Approximately 60 billion won ($45.3 million) will be invested in the new plant, with construction to begin early next year and completion targeted for 2026. Alongside the new facility, the company will undertake extensive improvements to the aging equipment in the existing plant.
Until now, Yuhan outsourced the production of some pharmaceuticals via original equipment manufacturer (OEM) contracts due to facility limitations. Cho’s vision is to produce certain pharmaceuticals in-house, capturing both quality and profitability. This is a proactive investment in anticipation of expanding the supply of raw materials and finished products to global pharmaceutical companies.
Research and development are the core pillars of Yuhan’s future, according to Cho. Expectations are growing for Yuhan’s next-generation drug candidates after Leclaza, with Cho highlighting YH35324, an investigative allergy treatment. YH35324 is evaluated as having high market potential since there is currently only one competing product, Xolair from Novartis, which generated about 5 trillion won in global sales last year.
Starting next year, the company’s new businesses are also expected to gain momentum. Cho has been actively involved in new businesses such as probiotics since taking office, and he is currently revising the new business strategy to accelerate growth.
Yuhan hit nearly 1 trillion won in revenue in the first half of this year alone and is on its way to becoming the first Korean pharmaceutical company to join the 2 trillion won club in revenue. However, achieving Cho’s previous goal of “becoming a global top 50 pharmaceutical company with 4 trillion won in revenue by 2026” requires a long journey ahead.
“To become one of the world’s top 50 pharmaceutical companies, we need to have at least two globally innovative novel drugs. In addition to Leclaza, I will make efforts to develop innovative new drugs that generate global revenue of more than 1 trillion won.”
By Kim Jee-hee and Minu Kim
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]