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Celltrion plans $500m factory in Wuhan to tap China drug market

Korean biotech company eyes local talent in first overseas production move

Celltrion's plant in Incheon: The South Korean drugmaker has chosen China's Wuhan as the site for its first overseas factory.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- South Korean drugmaker Celltrion will build its first overseas factory in China, the company said Tuesday, as it prepares to start contract manufacturing in the country.

Construction in the central Chinese city of Wuhan begins during the first half of this year, with at least 600 billion won ($514 million) to be invested by 2025.

Celltrion, founded in 2002, is known for biosimilars, a type of biological medicine that resembles existing products on the market.

But growth has run its course in the South Korean, European and U.S. markets, so Celltrion is seeking fresh demand in China. It has begun the application process to sell products there. 

The company has maintained high profitability, earning 338.2 billion won in operating profit on sales of 982 billion won in 2018.  Its mainstay products include Remsima, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer treatment Herzuma.

Wuhan's government courts biologic research and development centers, and the city reportedly hosts about 300 such facilities. Celltrion eventually wants to conduct research and development there as well, taking advantage of the talent pool.

Celltrion makes about 190,000 liters a year of biologics in the South Korean city of Incheon. The new factory in Wuhan will have an annual production capacity of 120,000 liters.

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