[100 Companies in Pangyo, the Silicon Valley in Asia] SK Bioscience's early expansion in bio business acts as spring pad in COVID era
2020-08-10, Lee Eun Sil Reporter
- Ready for IPO next year by signing LOI for global supply of COVID-19 vaccine candidate and receiving Bill Gates' development fund
- Corporate value estimated to be KRW 3 trillion by developing three COVID vaccines and being selected as the world's no. 1 contract manufacturer of COVID vaccine candidate
SK Bioscience, a subsidiary of SK Chemicals, is pursuing an IPO next year, and two factors have been raised for the prospect that SK Bioscience will benefit the most in the post-COVID era. First, the LOI for the global supply of the world's fastest-developing COVID-19 vaccine candidate from UK's AstraZeneca has been signed on July 22. Second, after the foundation made by Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft funded $3.6 million to SK Bioscience, it praised that Korea is leading the area of vaccine development in the private sector by mentioning the development of COVID-19 vaccine as an example on July 26.
SK Bioscience is currently developing three vaccines related to COVID-19: one in-house, one for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and one national project. Since last March, SK Bioscience has been conducting basic research such as producing candidate vaccines and conducting animal experiments to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 synthetic antigens. Its goal is to start the clinical trial as early as September and being approved the second half of next year.
In May, SK Bioscience received $3.6 million in R&D fund for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine antigen from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a letter to President Moon Jae-in on July 20, "If SK Bioscience succeeds in vaccine development, it will be able to produce 200 million vaccines annually from June next year." This is the expression of his expectation that SK Bioscience will be able to develop its own vaccine next year, apart from the project to manufacture AstraZeneca's vaccine.
With the dire need for vaccine development due to COVID-19 pandemic, SK Biosciences recently signed a three-way LOI agreement with the Ministry of Health and Welfare and AstraZeneca for the global supply of AZD1222, a candidate substance for COVID-19 vaccine. AZD1222 was developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and according to WHO's announcement, it is currently the world's fastest clinical trial that entered Phase 3.
SK Bioscience is one of the global partners of AstraZeneca and will participate in the manufacturing of AZD1222. The Ministry of Welfare, which has been in the scene since the beginning of the discussions between the two companies, plans to support for the rapid vaccine manufacturing and export. On top of this, MFDS's cooperation effort with AstraZeneca for bringing in AZD1222 in Korea will also begin.
Such reception of attention to SK Bioscience in the age of COVID is greatly contributed by SK Bioscience's Vice Chairman Choi Chang-won. In 2006, Choi became the CEO of SK Chemicals, and since then, he had developed the vaccine business in full force. He had built infrastructure from 2008, and made a large-scale investment of 500 billion won to expand the bio business. In 2012, the vaccine factory L House was built in Andong, Gyeongbuk Province. SK Bioscience currently owns the world's first tetra cell-culture influenza vaccine Skycellflu Tetra, SKY Zoster for herpes zoster, and SKY Varicella for chickenpox.
SK Bioscience's performance is improving every year. Last year, sales were 183.2 billion won and operating profit was 22.1 billion won, up 107.8% and 45.3% from last year, respectively. With such development performance, SK Bioscience is bound to be evaluated trillion won in the corporate value in the near future.