Samsung Biologics to make coronavirus drug for US startup

SEOUL — Samsung Biologics has reached an agreement to produce a potential coronavirus treatment on behalf of an American biotechnology startup, with output scaled up in 2021 pending clearance from health authorities.

Under the $362 million deal with Vir Biotechnology announced Friday, Samsung Biologics will manufacture antibody treatments that have received preliminary approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Clinical trials are set to begin within the year.

Samsung Biologics will shift to mass production at a facility in Incheon next year after the treatment is approved by health authorities in various countries. Citing the Trump administration’s support, a company official said that “the high likelihood that Vir’s treatment candidates will be approved for the coronavirus” led to the agreement.

Vir, whose investors include SoftBank Group and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, listed on New York’s Nasdaq market in October.

“Our expectation is that there will be a significant need around the world for antibody therapies,” Vir CEO George Scangos said in Friday’s announcement. “Accordingly, we are taking proactive steps to reserve large scale manufacturing capacity to be ready to move quickly with any of our antibody candidates that prove to be clinically safe and effective.”

Spurred by the announcement, Samsung Biologics’ stock rose 16.8% on Friday. The company’s market capitalization ranks third in South Korea, at around 37 trillion won, behind Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.

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