2021 was a busy year for Samsung Biologics, one of the world’s largest contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs). Early in the year, the CDMO began its first mRNA vaccine production project, providing fill/finish services for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. And it continued to provide a variety of development and manufacturing services for clients as demand for CDMO services increased during the pandemic, ultimately reporting record revenues for 2021 and revenue growth of 35%. Samsung Biologics is growing quickly, and mRNA vaccine production figures to be an important part of what CEO John Rim calls the company’s “multidimensional growth plan.”
In May 2022, Samsung Biologics completed the construction of a new mRNA vaccine production facility at its headquarters in Songdo, South Korea. It’s one of several new projects Samsung Biologics is constructing; others include a fourth biomanufacturing plant planned to provide 256,000 liters of capacity and a second bio campus that will be roughly 30% larger than the current bio campus and will contain an open innovation center.
As it continues to grow, Samsung Biologics is paying special attention to meeting sustainability goals. These goals, along with the CDMO’s sustainability efforts in 2021, are detailed in the company’s second annual environmental, social, and governance (ESG) report, released in July 2022. The report makes clear that Samsung Biologics continues to be focused on growth, particularly in new areas such as mRNA vaccine production, and that it’s focused on pursuing this growth in a sustainable manner, working to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental risks.
“Under our ‘Driven. For a Sustainable Life.’ framework, we are continuously improving and committing our resources to create a sustainable environment, build a healthy society, and implement responsible business activities,” said Samsung Biologics CEO John Rim. “The publication of our annual ESG report reinforces the progress we’ve made, while keeping us focused on the long-term goals we’ve set. Our sustainability initiatives reinforce the connection between the work we do and how we fulfill our mission, while delivering on our core values of always putting people and the environment first.”
End-To-End mRNA Vaccine Production
Samsung Biologics’ partnership with Moderna involved the drug product side of mRNA vaccine production. In providing fill/finish services, Samsung Biologics aseptically transferred the active mRNA drug substance to vials, creating the final drug product deliverable to patients.
However, Samsung Biologics didn’t produce the drug substance for Moderna’s vaccines at its location. The CDMO’s goal in constructing its new mRNA facility was to enable it to both produce mRNA drug substances and provide drug product services at a single place, making it a one-stop shop for mRNA vaccine production.
The ESG report highlights these expanded mRNA vaccine production capabilities as part of Samsung Biologics’ broader portfolio diversification goals.
“[W]e were the first in Korea to serve the fill/finish service for Moderna’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and receive approval for mRNA vaccine from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, as well as signing a contract manufacturing deal with GreenLight Biosciences for mRNA drug substance, as part of our successful business expansion into the mRNA area,” notes the report. “Moving forward, our new plant will give the company an absolute advantage of production capacity as well as an opportunity to tap into the CDMO business for next-generation therapeutics such as vaccine and cell and gene therapy (CGT) in addition to biopharmaceuticals.”
Balancing Sustainability and Innovation
Samsung Biologics’ commitment to expanding its mRNA vaccine production capabilities and its manufacturing capacity has coincided with an increased focus on ensuring that the company’s development adheres to ambitious sustainability guidelines.
The CDMO has approached sustainability from several angles, including joining international climate change initiatives, receiving certifications for environmentally friendly methods, and paying careful attention to thorough disclosure of its greenhouse gas emissions.
The ESG report outlines several sustainability initiatives that Samsung Biologics joined in 2021, including the Sustainable Markets Initiative, which focuses on connecting economic value to sustainable business practices, and the Frontier 1.5D project, which aims to ensure that global temperatures don’t rise higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
Samsung Biologics also detailed its commitment to disclosing its emissions data and continuing to monitor emissions at all its facilities through its participation in the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Finally, the company received four International Organization for Standardization certifications in 2021: ISO 22301 (business continuity management system), ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety management system), ISO 14001 (environmental management system), and ISO 50001 (energy management system).
What’s Next for Samsung Biologics
In a letter to shareholders published in the ESG report, Rim outlined Samsung Biologics’ goal to continue to grow in upcoming years.
“Despite unprecedented business uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Samsung Biologics succeeded to continue both quantitative and qualitative growth, achieving a record-high revenue and operating profit since its establishment,” said Rim. “In the future, we will relentlessly expand our business under three growth pillars of production capacity, business portfolio, and global footprint and establish ourselves as a global top-tier biopharma and at the same time nurture experts and secure talents to sharpen future competitive edge.”
While COVID-19 caused uncertainties across industries, the successful use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines has catalyzed a movement within the biopharmaceuticals industry to research and develop mRNA treatments for other diseases, including HIV and cancer. With the development of its new mRNA vaccine production facility, Samsung Biologics is positioning itself to be a part of the growth of mRNA technology in future years.
And while it is ambitiously pursuing expanded capacity and a diversified business portfolio, Samsung Biologics’ ESG report outlines that it is also actively pursuing sustainability goals. As the company moves forward, it will look to make progress on all these fronts: innovation, growth, and sustainable business practices.