(Bloomberg) -- Samsung Biologics Co., one of the world’s biggest contract-drug makers, plans to complete the construction of a massive plant costing about 1.74 trillion won ($1.5 billion) earlier than it expected, as the firm seeks to boost manufacturing of mRNA vaccines and therapies.

The production capacity of Samsung Group’s biotechnology arm will increase by about 70% when its fourth plant becomes operational. The initial plan was for it to be done by the end of 2023, but now “we think the entire plant will be fully ready by the middle of 2023,” James Choi, senior vice president and chief information and marketing officer of Samsung Bio, said in an interview.

Faster completion of the plant will help the firm get orders earlier and it could bolster profits sooner, according to the Korean company. The firm sold its debut bond last month, raising 500 billion won to help fund the fourth plant.

South Korea has been nurturing the bio-health industry as one of its future growth engines. The government plans to invest 2.2 trillion won in developing home-grown shots and becoming a global Covid-19 vaccine production hub over the next five years. Incheon-based Samsung Bio, which makes the Moderna Covid vaccine, is also actively studying M&A opportunities in the U.S., Europe and Asia, Choi said.

Read more: Moderna Producer in Korea Plans Debut Bond as Boosters on Way

The company is seeking to manufacture mRNA drug ingredients by the middle of next year and expand into cell and gene therapy, he said.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology has been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, with the Moderna and Pfizer Inc. shots that deploy it some of the most effective against Covid. There are hopes the technology can be used to administer a wide range of vaccines and drugs, including for cancer and other diseases.

Samsung Bio’s existing orders and contracts are set to exceed the capacity of the company’s three current plants in 2023, and more deals with drugmakers are in the works, according to Korea Investors Service. The new plant will help the firm increase cash-generating ability, the rating firm said. 



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