The Korea Herald


SK becomes No. 2 shareholder of US Center for Breakthrough Medicines

CBM plans to build world’s largest cell and gene therapy manufacturing facility by 2025

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : Jan. 9, 2022 - 14:51

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An aerial view of Discovery Labs in Philadelphia where the Center for Breakthrough Medicines is located (SK Inc.) An aerial view of Discovery Labs in Philadelphia where the Center for Breakthrough Medicines is located (SK Inc.)
SK Inc. has invested $350 million (421.4 billion won) in the Center for Breakthrough Medicines, a Philadelphia-based cell and gene therapy firm, to become the second largest shareholder, SK Group’s holding company said Sunday.

With the investment, SK Inc. has secured a strong foothold in the US cell and gene therapies market. The transaction came nine months after the holding company acquired Yposkesi, a French developer and manufacturer of cell and gene therapy products, in March.

As a contract development and manufacturing organization, CBM has core research and development capabilities for every process of developing cell and gene therapies. Among its capabilties are viral vector manufacturing as well as design and production of plasmid DNA, an essential material for making cell and gene therapies.

As a personalized treatment that involves the process of extracting, altering and injecting cells, protein or genetic materials, cell and gene therapies are known to be at the forefront of efforts to treat severe or rare diseases.

According to global consulting firm Deloitte’s report cited by SK Inc., the market for cell and gene therapies is expected to see an annual average growth rate of 25 percent until 2025.

CBM plans to build the world‘s largest cell and gene therapy production facility of 700,000-square-feet (65,000 square meters) by 2025 in Philadelphia’s so called “Cellicon Valley” -- America’s one and only bio cluster specialized in cell and gene therapies -- and hire 2,000 employees over the next four years, SK Inc. said.

“Through CBM investment, we have secured a key axis of our CMO (contract manufacturing organization) financial story that completes the value chain of synthetic and bio pharmaceutical businesses based on key footholds in the US, Europe and Asia by 2025,” said Lee Dong-hoon, head of the Bio Investment Center of SK Inc.

“We will be reborn as the world’s No. 1 cell and gene therapy CDMO (contract development and manufacturing organization) through intensive fostering of bio CDMOs.”

SK Inc. established SK Pharmteco in California in 2019 to manage its global CMO and CDMO operations after the holding company‘s acquisitions of the Bristol-Myers Squibb plant in Ireland in 2017 and Ampac Fine Chemicals in the US in 2018.

“We are happy to partner with SK Inc. I believe the partnership between the two companies will greatly contribute to the approval and commercialization of thousands of new treatments,” said Brian O‘Neill, founder and executive chairman of CBM.