HONG KONG – Upin & Co. Ltd., a fund and asset management company headquartered in London, plans to invest a total of KRW2 trillion (US$1.7 billion) over three years in the South Korean biopharma industry. The U.K. company will use a European fund and human resources network to organize the K-Bio Medical Development Fund (KBMDF), which will include funds of KRW300 billion for the first round, KRW700 billion for the second, and KRW1 trillion for the third round.
The fund will be created on the island of Jersey, a British Crown Dependency in the English Channel with a large offshore international finance industry, and it will be operated for eight years.
As a general partner, Upin will set up a consortium in London in mid-October, while working on the list of limited partners. The U.K. asset manager’s chairman and founder, Ohseung Kwon, said the company will found a KBMDF center in Seoul to manage the investment, which will begin this November.
“We plan to select the investee companies through regional biomedical industrial complexes,” Kwon told BioWorld. “Using the fund, Upin & Co. will support Korea’s promising bio ventures to grow major competencies, license in and out and enter the global market. The portfolio will mainly consist of new drug developers.
“Developing first-in-class drugs is not a necessary criterion for selection, but the investee companies should be innovative biomedical R&D firms,” he added.
The company will partner with various investment companies, pharmaceutical firms, fund managers, relevant institutions and associations, and a technical evaluation group to manage the fund. Upin will support the investee biomedical firms in licensing deals with global pharmaceutical companies, and as an investment goal, it will make the first case of the U.K. government’s investment in a Korean biopharma firm.
As an investment professional with more than 20 years in information policy, Kwon said he believes that the U.K.’s robust investment framework will create synergies with Korea’s fast-growing biotechs. Upin aims to introduce the U.K.’s investment know-how to the Korean biomedical industry ecosystem.
“There are about 5,600 businesses related to bioscience in the U.K. that employ around 240,000 people and makes more than KRW100 trillion of annual sales,” Kwon noted. “The industrial basis includes a broad range of bio firms from multinational giants like Glaxosmithkline plc, headquartered in Brentford, the U.K., to startups and other biotech and med-tech fields that have technological and commercial values. The development of the bio industry has been led by the country’s stable investment framework and high-tech professional human resources. Including the U.K., the global hegemony war for the bioscience industry has started.
“To boost Korea’s bio industry growth, we believe that investment should be carried out both in the firms and framework. We plan to include high-tech small-middle-size enterprises in the investment framework and provide them with well-developed strategies for global market entry,” Kwon added.
The list of investee companies has yet not been decided. Several Korean biotechs, including Hapln Science Inc., of Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do, belong to a potential investee group. But that doesn’t guarantee a deal confirmation.
“Upin & Co. has shown interest in our drug candidates for aging-related diseases such as osteoarthritis; however, there hasn’t been any actual agreement of investment yet,” Jonghong Hyun, business management director at Hapln Science, told BioWorld.
Founded in 2017, Upin operates its Asia branch in Seoul and the U.S. branch in Washington. It provides various fund management services such as small and medium enterprise funds, purchase order funds, property funds, accounts receivable funds, secondary funds, risk management funds, mutual funds and pension funds.
The London-based company also offers investment solutions in various sectors such as hotels, social overhead capital, private parking businesses, secured capital bonds, alternative bonds, rare earth refinery firms, the eco-friendly energy sector and biomedical R&D.
Upin also provides management consulting for strategic planning services, production scheduling services, budget planning services, production control services, logistics counseling, human resources management conflict resolution, information systems architecture, and e-commerce solutions. Additionally, the company offers equity and debt advice on financing, M&A, business process reengineering, disposals and current debt renegotiation. For the last two years, Upin has focused on consulting with and attracting investment to advanced IT and biomedical companies.
The U.K. asset manager will disclose more details about the investment after the first-round of funding in November, Kwon said.