Samsung to trade semiconductor expertise for COVID-19 vaccine patents

What do semiconductors and COVID-19 vaccines have in common? Nothing really, but Samsung Biologics reportedly wants to secure vaccine production orders as well as patented technologies from US-based pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, and the Korean tech giant’s semiconductor expansion plans in the USA might be used as leverage.

President Moon Jae-in will attend the first summit with U.S. President Joe Biden on May 21, and according to the Korean media, the two leaders will discuss possible collaborations for vaccine manufacturing. According to the Korean president’s chief policy secretary Lee Ho-seung, the USA wants to turn South Korea into a global vaccine production hub, seeing how the country is the world’s second-largest in terms of drug manufacturing capacity.

Meanwhile, the same report suggests that Samsung Biologics could become a much more vital piece to the US-South Korea dynamic. While Samsung Biologics is already producing vaccines on a contractual basis, the company reportedly wants to acquire more patents for two reasons: firstly the company aims to win more orders from Pfizer and Moderna, and secondly, the company is looking to expand its supply lines in Asia and Europe.

Samsung to leverage its semiconductor investment plans

There’s no secret that the USA is hoping that Samsung Semiconductor will contribute to the country’s chip manufacturing infrastructure before the end of the year, and Samsung might eventually decide to establish new manufacturing plants on US soil.

This collaboration has yet to be set in stone, and according to recent news, Samsung might end up leveraging the expansion plans of its Semiconductor division as a way to secure more vaccine-related patents for Samsung Biologics.

According to an unnamed government official cited by the Korean media, President Moon is expected to tell Biden what role South Korea can play, through Samsung Electronics, to back the U.S. president’s semiconductor initiatives.

The USA has so far been reluctant to sharing patented biopharmaceutical technologies because they are considered ‘strategic items,’ but the Biden administration could agree on sharing some of those technologies with Samsung Biologics if it means that Samsung’s semiconductor division will continue investing in the US’ semiconductor infrastructure.

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