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South Korea seeks to dominate bio-health

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in (right) listens to a guide talk about a Preah Pithu temple restoration project in Cambodia’s Siem Reap town on March 16. YONHAP

South Korea seeks to dominate bio-health

South Korea has chosen the bio-health industry as one of its three new target growth engines, alongside non-memory chips and future mobility. Through the industry, it aims to capture a 6 per cent global market share, reach $50 billion in exports and create 300,000 jobs by 2030.

“Bio-health will continue to grow and develop,” said President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday at a ceremony to proclaim the nation’s bio-health vision in Osong Bio Valley, North Chungcheong province, attended by four ministers of health, finance, science and industry.

“Our interest has been changing from ‘a long life’ into ‘a long, healthy life’ with the rise of the average longevity globally,” he said.

The global biomedicine and medical device market grew to $1.8 trillion as of 2016 with a five per cent rise annually.

Moon went on to say: “Now is the best opportunity for us to lead the global bio-health market.”

Although bio-health is not an easy sector for an emerging, manufacturing nation, South Korea has talent and technologies, he added.

Last year, South Korean companies accounted for two-thirds of the global biosimilar market. In the same year, the nation exported $4.8 billion of new drug technologies in the global market and exports of medicine and medical devices stood at $14.4 billion, around 20 per cent every year.

On the same day, the government announced the nation’s five-year plan for the bio-health industry, pledging to support the industry through funds, infrastructure and regulations.

Under the plan, it aims to expand the industry’s global market share from 1.8 per cent as of last year to six per cent by 2030 and to increase exports from a volume of $14.4 billion to $50 billion during the period.

To achieve the goal, the government plans to focus on collecting and using data, viewing this as vital for medical innovation and the development of new drugs and medical technologies.

The Health Ministry plans to create a big data platform by collecting data of up to one million people, mainly patients with rare or incurable diseases and their families, by 2029. It will collect information on their dielectric data, health conditions and history of medical use. The data will be saved by the National Bio Bank of Korea, to be used for developing customised new drugs and new medical technologies.

In addition, the government plans to expand its annual investment in research and development on developing innovative new drugs and medical devices from the current 2.6 trillion won ($2.18 billion) to up to four trillion won by 2025.

For instance, the funds will be used to develop regenerative machines and bio medicines, such as targeted cancer therapy using immunocytes, to discover promising candidate materials and to advance convergence medical devices, such as artificial intelligence-based image diagnosis devices.

Separately, around two trillion won will be financed for the support of the development of local blockbuster drugs – extremely popular drugs that generate annual sales of at least one trillion won for the company that sells it.

The regional government of North Chungcheong province also said it plans to invest 8.2 trillion won in 120 projects in the bio-health areas by 2030.

Following Moon’s announcement, the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organisation released a statement saying it “welcomes” the government’s efforts to foster the industry.

“The government’s pledge to support the industry is very timely while almost every country is aggressively fostering their bio-health industry due to the growth potential of bio technologies.” THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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