SK Pharmteco bets big on cell, gene therapy

BARCELONA, Spain -- SK Pharmteco, SK Inc.’s contract bio-manufacturing subsidiary, said the company’s burgeoning cell and gene therapy (CGT) business will become its new growth engine.

“We continue to expand our CGT business, and the capacity we are building over the next years will allow us to grow this business,” SK Pharmteco CEO Joerg Ahlgrimm said during a press conference Tuesday held on the sidelines of the Convention on Pharmaceutical Ingredients (CPHI) Worldwide, the world’s largest pharma trade show that kicked off earlier this week in Barcelona, Spain.

“The goal is to make the CGT unit generate annual sales of over $10 billion in the next few years.”

Kim Yeon-tae, head of the Bio Investment Center of SK Inc., the investment unit of SK Group, admitted that the global CGT market growth has been delayed due to the slowing economy and reduced investments, but he stressed that the market could see a turnaround starting in 2024.

For the time being, SK Pharmteco, based in California, said it plans to focus on advancing its manufacturing and technological capabilities to respond promptly to the potential surge in demand.

In September, the firm became the largest shareholder of Philadelphia-based CGT contract manufacturer Center for Breakthrough Medicines after a series of investments worth $350 million. Adding to its 2021 acquisition of French viral vector contract manufacturer Yposkesi, the firm has secured its production bases both in Europe and the US.

“I believe that combining these two (Yposkesi and CBM) creates an offering which not many CDMOs (contract development and manufacturing organizations) have,” Ahlgrimm said. “Having the CGT manufacturing sites in the two major regions will help the company seek new clients.”

CBM, which has testing services for CGT developers, will also allow SK Pharmteco to bring more “complete offers” to pharmaceutical and biotech companies that are looking for a CDMO partner who can develop, test and produce their therapies.

While ramping up efforts to upgrade CGT capabilities, SK Pharmteco will continue to expand its CDMO capacity for active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Separately, the company recently secured an investment of $500 million in a preinitial public offering round. The CEO said the company will reinvest the money to diversify its business portfolio.