Just the start
The Korean government has decided to form a special committee to oversee and support research and development in bioengineering. Public policy about bioengineering has been spread out among the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The Health Ministry, which is tasked with ensuring public health, often collided with the Industry Ministry, which promotes industrial development. Budgets often overlapped, and spending plans were incoherent.
The move comes as the country’s bioengineering and biomedicine sectors made enormous strides last year. Hanmi Pharmaceutical hit blockbuster licensing deals amounting to 8 trillion won ($6.64 billion), and Celltrion and Samsung Bioepis have emerged as strong players in the burgeoning biosimilars field.
The sectors have emerged as a sure bet for future growth in Korea. Biomedicine alone commands a market of $1 trillion. The biologics market is expected to hit $2.6 trillion in 2024, bigger than semiconductors, automobiles and chemicals, which make up the majority of Korea’s overseas shipments. Due to aging and advances in medical technology, the industry has been growing fast and contains infinite room to grow further.
Biomedicine and the health industry can create quality jobs. We are flush with the intelligent and skilled human resources necessary. Korea is poised to become a powerhouse in the field. But our influence is currently pitiful, with Korea taking up just 1.8 percent of the global pharmaceutical market. Companies from the United States, Europe and Japan, in contrast, control 75 percent.
The government must lead the campaign to turn our companies into juggernauts. Various regulations must be lifted, including restrictions on medicine prices and on nascent stem cell and genetic experimentation. In fact, the government should not stop at establishing a committee. It must create an entire ministry devoted to promoting the bio and health sectors.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 7, Page 34