Accelerated Samsung Bio timeline: Construction prowess or a headline opportunity?

Samsung Biologics has updated the expected completion date for its $1.5 billion fifth plant, but is this BIO-timed release actually news?

Dan Stanton, Managing editor

June 7, 2023

4 Min Read
Accelerated Samsung Bio timeline: Construction prowess or a headline opportunity?
Image: DepositPhotos/ ra2studio

Samsung Biologics has updated the expected completion date for its $1.5 billion fifth plant. But in this op-ed, we ask whether this BIO-timed announcement is demonstrative of engineering expertise, shoddy forecasting, or a rabid media campaign?

While industry has flocked to BIO this week, a family bereavement has meant this dejected journalist remains at home across the pond, sifting through the hundreds of prewritten press announcements trickling out of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC).

One such release being fervently pushed out is the revelation that Korean contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Samsung Biologics has updated the expected completion site of its fifth biomanufacturing facility by five months.


Image: DepositPhotos/

The problem I have is why is this message being pushed out, and what benefit does it bring to Samsung Biologics, the industry, and/or the patients who theoretically will be treated with the drugs this new facility will pump out? To me it sounds like content for the sakes of content, which is now being amplified by the trade press.

For context, a fifth plant in Songdo, Incheon housing 180,000 L of mammalian production capacity was first touted back in November 2021, but the full details only came in March this year via a regulatory filing. Construction of the plant at a cost of KRW 1.98 trillion ($1.5 billion) was set to have begun before the start of this month with a completion date of September 2025. As this week’s press release brags, this date has been moved forward to April 2025.

For Samsung Biologics’ other four plants, the speed from breaking ground to completion has been, er, well groundbreaking. This has been explained to BioProcess Insider by both founder and former CEO TH Kim and current CEO John Rim. “There’s no company in the world that can build facilities faster than Samsung and that really comes down to the Samsung DNA,” he told me at last year’s BIO, referencing the firm’s history of building multi-billion-dollar facilities in the semiconductor space.

“Having that track record, having that experience, enables us to do simultaneous construction at the same time. In record time [we do] engineering, procurement, construction, validation […] facility ramp-up to GMP, probably 40% faster than all our competition.”

Thus, rather than standing out as an unexpected news point, the revision of the fifth plant’s timeline beggars the question of whether Samsung Biologics’ planning team was far too conservative in its initial prediction or – more impertinently – not very good at forecasting?

This has, of course, been posed to the company but no response has been forthcoming. But why the need to respond when other publications are happily rewriting the press release. “Samsung Biologics speeds up $1.5 billion fifth plant, CEO reveals at BIO 2023,” says one such blogpost. “Samsung Biologics moves up plans to open its $1.5B+ plant,” is the headline at another trade publication.

I do not wish to understate the impressive ambition at Samsung Biologics, the huge level of investment it has made, and its standing in the biopharma manufacturing space. In little more than a decade, the firm has become a major in the biopharma services landscape. Across its four plants in Songdo, Incheon, the firm boasts a massive 604,000 L of bioreactor capacity. The firm also continues to win big contract with big pharma firms; Pfizer recently became the seventh top 10 pharma client with a contract worth $183 million.

And for full disclosure, I’ve twice had the privilege of visiting Songdo, and twice been awed by the speedy development at the site, the vast array of shiny stainless-steel tanks, and the meticulously professional culture garnered by the CDMO.

But a rejigged construction timeline? Call my cynical but Plant 4 also miraculously opened early. Furthermore, I cannot believe the forecasters would get it so positively wrong twice, thus if it reads like a preplanned BIO marketing campaign then it is probably a preplanned BIO marketing campaign.

(As a postscript, the fourth facility, described as “the world’s largest biomanufacturing plant,” was fully completed last week but was buried in the press release. This would be the news I’d have been shouting with gusto across the halls of BIO, but I’m just a cynical old journalist and no marketing expert!)

About the Author(s)

Dan Stanton

Managing editor

Journalist covering the international biopharmaceutical manufacturing and processing industries.

Founder and editor of Bioprocess Insider, a daily news offshoot of publication Bioprocess International, with expertise in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, in particular, the following niches: CROs, CDMOs, M&A, IPOs, biotech, bioprocessing methods and equipment, drug delivery, regulatory affairs and business development.

From London, UK originally but currently based in Montpellier, France through a round-a-bout adventure that has seen me live and work in Leeds (UK), London, New Zealand, and China.

You May Also Like