Hanmi Pharmaceutical has consolidated its position as one of the leading drug makers in Korea, standing as the country's top pharmaceutical firm by market cap. However, growing risks from canceled license-out deals have overshadowed its pharmaceutical business recently, putting the group's leadership to the test.
Lim Chong-yoon, CEO of Hanmi Pharmaceutical Group's holding firm Hanmi Science, said the group's pharmaceutical portfolio is well-established globally, and so will not be swayed by those risks. At the same time, he said the group will not confine itself to being a drug maker and pursue the goal of becoming an "omnibus life care" provider to stay competitive in the market.
"Pharmaceuticals and biologics are among the most promising areas for Hanmi, but there are windows to look outside, and we plan to start a voyage to tap into unknown opportunities," Lim said during an interview with The Korea Times. "There is a curiosity basket filled with opportunities, and projects with schools, hospitals and therapeutic centers are where I would love to start."
Hanmi Science was established in 2010 as the group's holding firm. Its role is not limited to managing the group units and affiliates, but includes investments into R&D projects and new businesses in the healthcare sector.
One of the noteworthy projects by Lim is Coree Group, a group affiliate having units covering venture investments and new business incubation, such as digital medical services, nutrition consulting and a number of projects related to healthcare. As part of these, Coree launched biobank projects in Italy and China in 2018 along with local partners.
"We believe what is beyond pharmaceuticals is welfare," Lim said. "I have been thinking that we need a total reformation of the health industry chain from medicine to omnibus life care. And it is time for us to embrace creative destruction."
According to him, omnibus life care is providing full services to bring back health to a patient, meaning it includes not only the treatment of a disease through medication but also a study into the cause of the disease and ways to prevent it. For this, Hanmi Science takes care of the medical part and Coree is in charge of prevention and other services.
Along with Coree, Lim is expanding Hanmi's domain by opening up its businesses to outside partners.
On Dec. 9, he visited China and met iKang Healthcare Group Chairman Zhang Ligang. iKang Healthcare Group is a preventative healthcare provider based on a medical examination network. Reportedly, Lim and Zhang discussed the two sides' partnership for a digital examination system. In addition to iKang, Lim met with the leaders of three Chinese healthcare companies in December and discussed partnerships.
"Hanmi is one of the most active Korean drug makers to sign partnerships with global companies," Lim said. "However, the efforts were an outcome born out of desperation to overcome partnership rejections from global drug makers and the growing burden of its huge R&D investment."
Running into bumps
Lim's remark came amid growing risks in Hanmi's main business of drug manufacturing.
In January 2019, Eli Lilly returned the licensing rights for Bruton's tyrosine kinase inhibitor HM71224, which Hanmi Pharmaceutical licensed out in 2015 for $765 million. Six months later, Janssen handed back rights to HM12525A, an antidiabetic obesity treatment, which Hanmi also licensed out in 2015. The series of cancellations raised questions on Hanmi Pharmaceutical's pipeline.
Regarding this, Lim said failures and cancelations were common in the pharmaceutical business, and the company was not swayed by failure.
"Hanmi has already established itself, having over 400 drug licenses which use more than 90 percent of the manufacturing sites that the company owns," Lim said. "In China, we have about 50 drug licenses approved by the China Food & Drug Administration and three top prescribing drugs there."
Another risk which emerged recently is Efpeglenatide, a new diabetes drug candidate which Hanmi licensed out to Sanofi in 2015.
Efpeglenatide drew high expectation as it requires weekly injections, unlike most existing diabetes drugs which require daily ones.
However, new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said on Dec. 10 that the French pharma giant was stopping all research into diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Following the decision, Sanofi will finish the drug's phase three clinical trials but will not launch it and instead seek a partner to commercialize the drug.
Hanmi said the move was not related to the drug's efficacy and safety, and the details of the licensing agreement and the plan to file new drug applications in 2021 have not changed. However, this raised questions over Efpeglenatide's future in the market as well as affecting the stock prices of Hanmi Pharmaceutical and Hanmi Science.
"Sanofi, like many in this industry, is among the most strategic and dynamic firms when it comes to reform in my opinion, and it was a very bold decision by Sanofi that is in line with current changes in the treatment of chronic diseases," Lim said.
"For the market, it is a good time to find a partner since the technical strength of Efpeglenatide is still valid as seen in the current phase three clinical trials. It can serve many patients with the unique biological advantage of a prolonged-activity agonist molecule."
Unlike Hanmi, Sanofi terminated its diabetes drug partnership with Lexicon Pharmaceuticals in July as part of its farewell to diabetes drugs, despite paying $260 million to Lexicon.
As Lim said, a number of analysts said Sanofi's decision to finish Efpeglenatide's phase three trials means it highly evaluates the value of Hanmi's technology in developing the drug.
The technology, Lapscovery, is a platform technology that prolongs the duration of action of biologics, thus making it possible for once a week or monthly treatments. Hanmi has made sizable investments in recent years to produce biologics using Lapscovery.
"Lapscovery is effective as it can translate into many metabolic related treatments, and the world needs more advanced medicines using this technology to reduce patient inconvenience from outdated drug regimens."
출처: The Korea Times
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