South Korea pushes to be new force in pharmaceuticals

In a brightly lit sealed room at Celltrion's headquarters near Seoul, a man in white overalls and a hairnet squats next to a huge steel tank, extracting a beaker of brown liquid resembling stale beer.


The substance is hazardous to people; emergency showers are nearby in case of accidental exposure. But it is the source of nutrition for the genetically engineered cells used to make biological medicines, as Celltrion spearheads a push by South Korea to become a force in the pharmaceuticals industry.

From ships to smartphones, the country’s manufacturing groups have driven extraordinary economic growth over the past 50 years by investing aggressively to mimic technology pioneered in Japan, the US and Europe, before eventually becoming innovators in their own right.

South Korea’s government hopes that model can be replicated in the pharmaceuticals sector as Celltrion and Samsung, the country’s biggest conglomerate, build a presence in a new...

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