[THE INVESTOR] Korean biotech firm BIOCND is pinning hopes on its early-stage copy of Lucentis, the best-selling eye therapy from Novartis, as prospects for biosimilars are upbeat.
“Our Lucentis biosimilar, BCD 300, has high potential for commercialization, as it faces less competition,” said Song Dong-ho, CEO of BIOCND in an interview with The Investor on July 19.
BIOCND CEO Song Dong-ho
“Global companies are increasingly showing interest, as it’s the world’s third Lucentis biosimilar that has received approval for clinical trials,”
Song was confident that the competitiveness of biosimilars would remain strong for at least half a decade, saying that it would not be easy for heavyweight pharma companies to cut prices to compete against cheaper biosimilars.
“Setting the stage for a price war will take a lot of time,” he noted.
BIOCND plans to complete the phase 1 clinical trials of BCD 300 by the end of this year and eventually seek a partner for out-licensing. The firm is also developing biosimilar candidates referencing AbbVie’s Humira and Roche’s Avastin.
Song’s company may be only eight years old, but he is a veteran in the business, with 30 years of experience as a drug developer. Previously, he worked at Green Cross and LG Life Sciences before he decided to fly solo.
Before jumping into the immensely popular biosimilar business, BIOCND used to offer consulting services to Korean companies like Celltrion and Hugel to help them gain government approval.
“We made enough money for 10 people, but because I was an advisor, I didn’t have any decision-making rights. So I thought it would be better to become the main agent, even if it’s riskier,” said the CEO.
Another potential growth driver for BIOCND is the famous wrinkle-fighting botulinum toxin.
On July 7, the company completed the construction of a plant dedicated to botulinum toxin product undergoing phase 1 clinical studies. The line has a capacity of 2.4 million vials per year, worth 100 billion won (US$88.82 million).
“The production site is the most crucial part of manufacturing botulinum toxin because other procedures such as clinical trials are not too difficult to conduct as many people are eager to try the toxin,” he said.
In Korea, a growing number of companies, including Daewoong Pharamceutical, Hugel and Medytox, have made progress in anti-aging injectable therapy and hope to step into larger markets such as the US.
They hope to compete against popular products such as Allergan’s Botox, and Song says he’s actually glad to see the rivalry, which is helping to create new markets in Asian countries where products are cheaper than those of established names.
“In China, BIOCND is planning to enter through a joint venture. We will also plan on expanding our indications from cosmetic use to therapeutic use to treat interstitial cystitis and migraine,” he said.
By Park Han-na (email@example.com)
The Investor Profile
Headquarters: Bundang, Gyeonggi Province
Description: BIOCND develops biosimilars and biobetters as well as botullinum toxin products.
Founder/CEO: Song Dong-ho
Funding: Around 7.5 billion won in total
► Dt&Investment bought 1 billion won (US$871,300) worth of convertible bonds in June 2017
► 6.5 billion-won fund from venture capital companies, including Mirae Asset Venture Investment and KDB Capital in August 2015