Samsung jumps into novel drug R&D through Takeda deal

Samsung Bioepis
A Samsung Bioepis engineer.

Samsung Bioepis has begun its long-anticipated move into novel drug R&D. The offshoot of South Korean conglomerate Samsung is taking its first steps beyond the lower risk, lower reward world of biosimilars by teaming up with Takeda to co-develop drugs against diseases including pancreatitis.

Samsung and Takeda’s first task is to jointly fund and co-develop TAK-671, a treatment for severe acute pancreatitis discovered by the Japanese company. Little is known about the preclinical-stage TAK-671 outside of Samsung and Takeda. But that is set to change as the new partners move it into and then through the clinic. Samsung and Takeda will collaborate on clinical trials and, if the drug makes it that far, licensing and commercialization.

The advance of TAK-671 will act as a proving ground for a planned clutch of collaborative programs aimed at unmet medical needs. Samsung will get involved in these programs earlier. While Takeda discovered TAK-671 without the support of Samsung, the Korean company will play a role in the first steps of some of the other drugs, local media reports

Drug discovery and clinical trials of innovative biologics are new challenges for Samsung. But the company is approaching the task with the same bullish attitude that turned heads and ruffled feathers when it entered the biosimilars market.

“With novel biologics, we will look to bring medicines to treat unmet diseases by breaking down two major hurdles facing biologics development—cost overruns and time delays,” the Financial Times quotes Samsung as saying. 

Samsung is yet to flesh out how it plans to get novel biologics through development faster and for less money than is typical. The company’s talk of outcompeting well-established drugmakers in the biosimilar market was backed up by its stellar manufacturing credentials in other fields. Samsung will need different, less-transferrable skills to succeed in drug development. But the company’s track record in biosimilars suggests it would be unwise to dismiss its prospects. 

By entering the field through an alliance, Samsung has mirrored the approach it took when it set out to colonize the then-nascent biosimilars sector. In 2011, Samsung teamed up with Biogen and Quintiles to ease its entry into the new market. Two years later, Samsung added Merck to its list of partners. Not all the partnered drugs worked out. But regulatory green lights for copies of Amgen’s Enbrel and Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade showed Samsung can walk the walk.

The Takeda agreement could mark the start of a similar multideal entry into to the world of novel drug R&D. Samsung is looking for more “co-development opportunities with multinational pharmaceutical and biotech companies,” the FT reports. 

These deals form part of a strategy intended to turn Samsung into an innovative drug developer working across all phases of development within 10 years, Reuters reports.