HONG KONG – South Korean company Daewoong Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. is partnering with Universitas Indonesia (UI), a state university in Jakarta, to jointly develop new biological medicines. The collaboration – the first of its kind in Indonesia – is expected to help Daewoong expand its global manufacturing and R&D network.

The two parties established the Bio Technology Research Centre UI-Daewoong at the university's integrated research facilities. The center comes with advanced tools in biotechnology, such as capillary electrophoresis, freezer thermoscientific and molecular devices. This laboratory will operate with the concept of smart system, in which the control of all the tools and energy sources is done by automation.

The South Korean pharmaceutical company has already made plans as to what type of biologics it will jointly develop with its new academic partner.

"Our initial product is epidermal growth factor," Nathan Kim, head of Daewoong's communications department, told BioWorld Asia. "Next would be other biologic products such as human growth hormone, monoclonal antibody, stem cell products and so forth.

"Daewoong is looking to produce and develop biologic products through its differentiated reverse innovation approach and integrated laboratory," he added.

"Reverse innovation" is a strategy invented by Daewoong to advance into developed markets from developing countries.

Daewoong will use this opportunity to develop biologic products tailored to the Indonesian market at the plant and R&D center it has built in the country; then the company will export those products to developed markets, including its homeland, South Korea. Prior to that move, Daewoong has already developed a hemopoietin in Indonesia.

Given its huge population, Daewoong views Indonesia as a lucrative market and a hub for biologics production and R&D in the future, said Kim. "It is one of the world's biggest countries with vast growth potentials," he said.

Apart from the new laboratory with UI, Daewoong has another research center in Jakarta to develop biotechnology-driven products – Daewoong-Infion, a joint venture between Daewoong and East Java-based PT Infion Pharmaceutical Co. Daewoong also has a manufacturing site in Surabaya to produce erythropoietin, somatropin and vaccines.

But the ambition of the Korean pharma company doesn't stop with Indonesia. Daewoong is looking to extend its reach to other parts of the world. And one way of securing a strong foothold in the markets is collaboration with local partners.

"Although Daewoong has long been engaged in R&D for biologics and has developed advanced technology and analytical methods, in order to produce high quality and beneficial product in each local area, we have to collaborate with experts and professors of that area," said Kim.

As part of its localization strategy, the company launched the open collaboration research program to seek quality partners around the globe, which had connected it to one of Indonesia's top universities.

"As one of the best universities in Indonesia, UI has many experts and professors," said Kim.

To UI, the establishment of this research center means a transfer of science using high biotechnology to support its student academic activities in the field of R&D of biological drugs. It is a form of academic partnership between the two in the field of education, research and development of biological medicine. The center will team up with UI's College of Pharmacy to offer scholarships and training programs for biopharmaceutical expertise.

Both parties hope to contribute to the health care industry in Indonesia through developing biotech infrastructure and innovating pharmaceutical products.

And the collaboration comes at a time when the Indonesian government is also looking to enhance its R&D capacity in biotechnology.

"The collaboration is in line with, and will support, the road map proposed by Indonesia's Ministry of Health regarding the independence of pharmaceutical products. The road map aims to shift the focus from importing active pharmaceutical ingredients and raw materials to research and development," said Kim.

Headquartered in Seoul, Daewoong has been eyeing the bigger Asian market in recent years.

In October 2014, the company set up a research center in Liaoning, a northeastern city of China, in collaboration with Shenyang Pharmaceutical University to develop generics for the Chinese market. The center also develops oral solutions, suspension products and sustained-release drugs.

In South Asia, it opened a research center in Hyderabad, India, in January 2009. The center focuses on developing global generics for the markets in the U.S. and Europe.

As Daewoong's overseas expansion strategy plays out, it is also trying to tap into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, and the Islamic markets through Indonesia.

Daewoong now has eight branches overseas, mostly in the Southeast Asia region.