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Biosim maker plans expansion

Posted 14 August 2019

Newly launched biosimilar company Celltrion is expanding its local staff from four to 15 people as it looks to accommodate at least three major new products over the next two years. 

The company is looking at the imminent launch of Mabthera biosimilar Truxima, while it is also awaiting a PBAC outcome for Herceptin biosimilar Herzuma

Speaking with Pharma in Focus at the company's Sydney office yesterday (Tuesday), head of business JAPAC Joo Sik Choi and country manager ANZ Cecilia Sung said Celltrion was anticipating a new subcutaneous infliximab (Remicade) biosimilar in the next one or two years as the third of its pipeline assets to arrive. 

The move will be a slightly different one for the company as there is no subcutaneous version of the originator infliximab, meaning the drug will be new.

Choi calls these products "biobetter".

"We try to differentiate ourselves from other [biologic- or biosimilar-makers], whether through innovation around increasing efficacy, or convenience," he said.

Celltrion's Joo Sik Choi

"So the subcutaneous type increases the convenience compared to the [current] intravenous type."

Currently the business has a local staff of four people but Sung said it was "in the process right now" of looking for its future expanded team. The company is also considering hiring a salesforce for the launch of Truxima in coming months. 

Celltrion first arrived in April after it decided to take the distribution of its biosimilars into its own hands. The company has a licensing deal with Pfizer for marketing of its intravenous Inflectra infliximab biosimilar. 

When asked about possible pitfalls of distributing deals with others in the local market, Choi said there were a number of reasons the company decided to establish its own business here.  

"We respect the capability of Pfizer as our partner in Australia, and at the same time I think as a developer and manufacturer of the product, I think we can create and add value. 

"As a developer we can explain the clinical trials for our products more clearly, better than anyone else. That's the kind of differentiating point."

The company's marketing manager Anthony Boteju said: "if you have your own legal entity, potentially the cost savings you make from not having a partner can be brought into making your product that much more economical for the patients".

Choi also spoke on Celltrion's presence in the country amidst a greater number of Korean companies expanding in Australia. 

"I think a lot of the Korean-based companies try to establish their subsidiary because of the pro-clinical trial environment in Australia and also, the Australian market itself is comparatively big," he said. 

"Right now in Korea... as a country we have two focuses. The first one is IT, you know, Samsung, LG [and so on], and the second is biotechnology. There has been a lot of investment from the government side and the private side."

Yajun Ma

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