Published: October 31, 2019

One of South Korea’s biggest pharmaceutical companies has set up a regional office in Adelaide, lured by the state’s burgeoning reputation in the health and biotechnology sectors.

Yuhan has spent $2.4 million to establish its “open innovation” office, which will oversee the company’s operations in Australia and New Zealand.

The local office is focused on identifying biotech companies in the region to invest in and collaborate with, and is the company’s third global open innovation hub following openings in San Diego and Boston last year.

The Adelaide office is headed up by regional chief executive Lee Farrand, who spent a decade in Seoul before returning to Adelaide in 2016.

He said Yuhan was South Korea’s biggest pharmaceutical company by revenue, and was now looking to partner with emerging companies across the world.

“We’re looking for very interesting, promising, innovative, blue sky research that changes the model of thinking in medicine,” he said.
“There is a lot of innovative research in this area, at the early stage, but there’s a lack of sophisticated investors.

“As part of the partnership we contribute in-house the parts of the development that are very difficult for small biotech companies to access without paying a large amount of money - that’s the value add we bring.

“We understand how to develop those drugs and we’re very flexible in the partnership models.

“We see Adelaide as the perfect base - a good quality of life, good focus on healthcare in the BioMed City.”

Mr Farrand said Yuhan specialised on developing treatments in cancer, metabolic diseases like NASH liver disease and central nervous system (CNS) diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

As part of the open innovation model, R&D companies often license their product to another group, who will then progress the drug to the next stage of its development.

Yuhan specialises in pre-clinical to phase 2 trial stages, Mr Farrand said, but had the ability to oversee all stages of a drug’s development - from R&D to sales and distribution.

He said the company had signed four drug out-licensing deals in the past 12 months, worth a combined $US3.1 billion.

It is also looking at other trade opportunities. Last year, for example, Yuhan became the sole distributor of a2 Milk in South Korea.

“Australia and New Zealand have a very good reputation for being clean and well regulated, and so that has strong brand power for Korean consumers,” Mr Farrand said.
“Those opportunities we’re open to as well - we’re looking at some here in Adelaide.
“We’re looking to go between five and seven staff within the first 12 months but eventually there could be more opportunities for trade-based business between Seoul and Adelaide and Australia and then our team could expand significantly.”

Trade Minister David Ridgway said Yuhan’s decision to invest in South Australia offered further proof of the state’s growing reputation as a centre for research and development in life sciences.

“Our state boasts one of the largest health science precincts in the southern hemisphere and has the track record, capability and ambition to continue its global leadership in the development and scaling of distinctive health and life science innovation,” he said.

Yuhan, one of South Korea’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, sets up office in Adelaide by Giuseppe Tauriello originally seen on The Advertiser, 28 October 2019.

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