In the past two years, the market has struggled to keep up with demand while keeping employees and associates protected from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected every single industry in different ways. The biopharmaceutical industry in particular had to overcome many challenges while working as fast as they could to help patients and families treat and prevent COVID-19. 

Contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) like Samsung Biologics have had unique problems to face throughout the last two years. In an interview with the European Pharmaceutical Review, members of leading CDMOs, including Samsung Biologics, laid out how they overcame challenges in increasing demand and supply chain disruptions,   and how they’ve grown from the experience. 

Keeping up With Demand

Samsung Biologics determined the best way to keep up with the rising demand for products was to continue to expand with more plants and partnerships with biopharmaceutical companies that required the CDMO’s services. “We need to provide fast, agile service to our clients so they can be fast to market,” CEO John Rim said in an interview. “We’ve actually reduced the speed to market for tech transfers for our clients quite rapidly. Historically, I think it was six to nine months; now it’s three to four months.”

At the JP Morgan 2022 Healthcare Conference, Samsung Biologics unveiled its plans for Plant 5 and more. Plant 4 is almost completed. Plant 5, which is currently in the planning stages, will offer cell and gene therapies, as well as vaccines that rely on mRNA, pDNA, and viral vectors. Samsung Biologics is planning two more expansions, including Plant 6 and an Open Innovation Center. Additionally, the corporation anticipates adding numerous sites globally.

Plant 4, dubbed the Super Plant, began construction in November 2020 in Incheon, South Korea, the city where the company is headquartered. When completed, the facility will be the world’s biggest biopharmaceutical production facility. It will cover an area of 238,000 square meters and have a production capacity of 256,000 liters.

Additionally, Plant 4 will have a CDO lab, a quality control (QC) lab, as well as cold and freezer storage. These storage alternatives will be quite beneficial when it comes to handling and storing COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, which must be kept at certain temperatures throughout the manufacturing process. 

James Choi, Executive Vice President and Chief Information & Marketing Officer, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges globally for biologics manufacturing to date and has been unrelenting since its onset. As a result of the pandemic, CDMOs have seen an increasing demand to deliver drugs to market at an unprecedented speed. The requirement for regular booster vaccinations means that this need for manufacturing support will likely continue for the foreseeable future.”

Boosting Production of mRNA Vaccines and Treatments

Samsung Biologics has had to rapidly speed up the advancement that came with the demand for mRNA vaccines and treatments. Many partners, like Moderna, AstraZeneca, and GreenLight Biosciences came to Samsung Biologics for assistance in manufacturing their products. 

Choi told European Pharmaceutical Review, “The use of mRNA technologies in the production of vaccines in response to COVID-19 has demonstrated the effectiveness and potential of the technology. The capability for mRNA to be easily edited not only makes it the ideal tool to combat viruses that can quickly mutate, but also gives it the potential to be used in the treatment of countless other diseases. This is highlighted by the fact that there were over 70 mRNA therapeutics in clinical pipelines globally as of July 2021, and there are many more assets currently in early development.”