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[JPM 2024] SK Biopharmaceuticals to make big bet on new R&D platforms

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : Jan. 10, 2024 - 14:00

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SK Biopharmaceuticals CEO Lee Dong-hoon speaks at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference' Asia-Pacific track session, held in San Francisco, California, Tuesday. (SK Biopharmaceuticals) SK Biopharmaceuticals CEO Lee Dong-hoon speaks at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference' Asia-Pacific track session, held in San Francisco, California, Tuesday. (SK Biopharmaceuticals)

SAN FRANCISCO -- SK Biopharmaceuticals will make aggressive investments into new drug discovery platforms to replicate the firm's success of its epilepsy treatment Xcopri, it said at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference' Asia-Pacific track presentation session on Tuesday.

"SK Biopharmaceuticals is the first and the sole Korean company to directly sell novel drugs in the US," SK Biopharmaceuticals CEO Lee Dong-hoon said while unveiling the firm's long-term growth strategy at the event. "We aim to serve as the pillar in the ecosystem of Korean companies looking to develop and make global sales in their novel drugs, leveraging cenobamate's sustainable growth and synergies within the SK Group value chain."

Officially introduced in the US under the name Xcopri in early 2020 and Europe as Ontozry in 2021, the cenobamate tablet has been acknowledged for its significant rate of disappearance of seizures among adult epilepsy patients by up to 21 percent.

Last year, Xcopri swiftly emerged as the primary choice for epilepsy treatment in the US, capturing approximately 43 percent of new-to-brand prescription rates among patients.

The novel drug has entered over 100 countries through strategic partnerships, where the company employs direct sales systems.

The company is conducting clinical trials to extend the application of the treatment to teenagers and children by submitting new or supplemental drug approval applications by 2025. SK Biopharmaceuticals envisions Xcopri achieving blockbuster global sales of at least $2 billion in the next seven years.

With the hopeful sales goal, the CEO outlined the company's strategy to propel a second leap into the global big biotech arena, by aggressively investing in innovative new drug development platforms.

As one example, with its US subsidiary SK Life Science, the firm plans to develop technology for targeted protein degradation, an emerging therapeutic modality with the potential to tackle disease-causing proteins in cancer cells.

"We are actively engaged in the discovery and development of best-in-class and first-in-class decomposition agents, capable of targeting entities that lacked therapeutic agents previously, facilitated by molecular proximity-enabled detection," Lee said.

In the realm of radiopharmaceutical therapy, SK Biopharmaceuticals outlined a comprehensive strategy covering the production of essential RPT materials, as well as innovative development of novel drugs. The strategy involves collaborative efforts both domestically and globally, including partnership with TerraPower, a US nuclear reactor development engineering firm, in which SK Group has made substantial investments in 2022.