Updated on 15 May 2013
Currently, more than half of Korean biotechnology firms are located in the capital area of Seoul. The industry, however, is moving toward geographic diversification thanks to government policies that nurture bio-clusters throughout the country. In line with global trends, Korea's biotechnology is strengthening its R&D capacity in genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics. There are also new researchs being done in bio-products through the incorporation of cutting-edge technologies. The annual average investment has increased at a hefty rate of 23 percent, which shows the strong will of the Korean government to promote the biotechnology sector.
Clinical research hotspot
Korea has positioned itself as a hub for global clinical studies in Asia as it has the necessary infrastructure and is rich in labor force in areas such as basic science, life science, and clinical research, which are needed as foundations to developing new drugs.
Also, many global pharmaceutical companies are exerting efforts to enhance the Korean market's position and reflect patient's need by inducing early stage clinical studies, as well as late stage studies. Furthermore, these companies are developing separate clinical trials targeting Asian population in Korea.
Many firms in Korea are also seeking help form life science investment companies to explore their clinical research potential on the global front. For example, Burrill Merchant Banking Group (MBG) was engaged by PharmaEssentia, a company based in Taiwan, to find US and Japanese partners for its phase III product for Polycythemia Vera. Burrill MBG was also engaged by Furiex to find a global partner for a phase III antibiotic development with major region focus being on China and South Korea.
However, there are challenges. Although Korea has a good foundation in the traditional fermentation, antibiotic and diagnostic industries, pharmaceutical companies have not been very successful in independently developing a molecule leading to a pharmaceutical product.
There is strong demand for licensing pharmaceutical products in Korea. Merck licensed technology from the South Korean firm Hanwha Chemical to expand its biosimilars portfolio, taking advantage of South Korea's growing expertise in the area.
The South Korean drug pricing system is also ambiguous in recognizing the proper value of new drugs, which are outcomes of R&D. Besides, these seems to be a gap between the acquisition of core biotechnologies and the development of supporting, industrial infrastructure in the domain of biotech. Although a lot of work has been done in this respect but a lot still needs to be done.