Gov’t plan to aid pharmaceuticals

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Gov’t plan to aid pharmaceuticals

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The Korean government yesterday announced a series of plans to expand the local biotechnology industry, including exporting biosimilar drugs and researching stem cells and genetic modification.

The government sees potential since Korea has the world’s third-largest production capability for biosimilar products and is second in the world in terms of clinics for stem cell research.

Korean science and technology representatives gathered yesterday with President Park Geun-hye, ministers, private-sector leaders and researchers at a regular meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in northeastern Seoul.

“Biotechnology is one of the most crucial areas with which we can boost our economy and enhance the quality of our lives, because people want to live healthier lives as the average lifespan and income have increased,” President Park said at the meeting.

Park praised Korea working to develop and commercialize new drugs for the global market, but said that Korea has a long way to go before it can become a global biopharmaceutical leader.

“The private sector is largely relying on the government’s investment toward R&D,” she said. “But a lot of results from research remain in the lab, unable to be applied at hospitals and industries.”

“From now on, Korea should take it a step further from research that relies solely on government subsidies,” she added. “We should strive to accelerate private-sector led industrialization of biotech studies and make a market out of it.”

The government hopes to generate 10 trillion won ($9.7 billion) from biopharmaceutical exports by 2020 by encourage public and private support for the local pharmaceutical industry.

Samsung Bioepis is planning to commercialize seven new biosimilar drugs by 2016, while other companies including Dong-A Socio Holdings, Green Cross, Hanmi Pharm and LG Life Science are also working on commercialization.

However, large pharmaceutical companies have suffered from a shortage of biotech professionals. To help fill the gap, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said yesterday it plans to provide free training programs on research and quality management to the companies’ existing staff members.

For its part, the Labor Ministry said yesterday it is encouraging young people to enter the pharmaceutical industry by adding biosimilar and biobetter classes at the state-run Korea Polytechnics College Bio Campus in South Chungcheong.

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency said it will help small and midsize biopharmaceutical companies find export opportunities through networking overseas. The Industry Ministry said it plans to relax regulations for issuing export certificates to small and midsize biotech companies.

Another beneficiary of the government’s plan is stem cell and gene therapy research. Korea has the world’s second-highest number of research results waiting to be commercialized, according to the Korean National Science and Technology Council.

Companies such as Kolon Life Sciences and Genexine are in the middle of clinical tests for treatments for hepatitis B and degenerative arthritis.

However, they haven’t been able to diversify their research due to lack of access to cutting-edge facilities and laws regarding genetic modification.

The government yesterday said it will open advanced cell research facilities owned by state-run institutes for use by private research institutes that are studying adult stem cells. It also said it will revise bioethics laws to allow more diseases to be researched.

BY kim ji-yoon [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]




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