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Oncolytic virotherapy association launched in Korea
  • By Park Gi-taek
  • Published 2017.09.22 16:13
  • Updated 2017.09.22 16:18
  • comments 0

An oncolytic virotherapy association was launched Thursday, vowing to lead Asia’s research and commercialization of this medical sector, an emerging treatment modality that uses replication-competent viruses to kill cancerous cells.

The Asia-Pacific Virotherapy Association아시아항암바이러스협회 held an inaugural assembly at Myongji Hospital명지병원 in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, with the attendance of university professors, research fellows and venture firms in bioindustry.

Along with the inauguration, the association hosted the first international forum on oncolytic virotherapy.

Under the theme, “New Paradigm of Cancer Therapy: Oncolytic Virotherapy, Where Are We,” the conference introduced new studies on oncolytic virotherapy and discussed ways to apply them for practical treatment.

To date, viruses have been perceived only as causes of diseases. However, recent studies and clinical trials have discovered that replication-competent viruses, except for those causing infection, can effectively kill cancerous cells.

Against this backdrop, Amgen developed Imlygic, an oncolytic viral therapy using herpes virus. The drug received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Agency in 2015 to treat skin cancer.

In the local market, Sillajen is developing Pexa-vec, also an oncolytic immunotherapy.

The oncolytic virotherapy is being actively studied worldwide. The U.S. is increasing government support for, and investment in oncolytic virotherapy as the National Institute of Health is preparing a clinical trial as part of a federal project. The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical research group in Minnesota, is studying on six candidate viruses used for oncolytic virotherapy.

Korea has also joined the latest international trend, by launching an oncolytic virotherapy association consisting of researchers, hospitals, and corporations. The association includes Korea’s leading biopharma firms such as ViroCure and Sillajen.

Asia-Pacific Virotherapy Association holds an inaugural meeting at Myongji Hospital in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, on Thursday.

“Our association aims to lay the foundation to lead Asia’s technologies in oncolytic virotherapy to apply them to clinical trials, although Asia is lagging far behind the U.S. and Europe in such technologies,” said Lee Wang-jun이왕준, chairman of Myongji Hospital’s board of directors.

“To do so, we will collect successful cases of international researches in this area, scattered from country to country, and seek stronger collaborations between researchers,” he said.

Lee said the association would join the international trends seeking better and safer cancer treatments that can also improve quality of life, by pushing for more R&D and commercialization of oncolytic virotherapy.

“The launch of the association is significant in that scholars at home and abroad are challenging the new areas in virotherapy,” he said. The association will also help raise awareness of the emerging oncolytic virotherapy and pursue policy changes to bring about a quick spread of new technologies.

“Celltrion’s impact on the healthcare and biomedical industry has become larger than that of pharmaceuticals with a long history. This is because the company challenged for the new sector,” Lee said. “But it is not easy to make new challenges in these industries. Researchers and businesses find it difficult to carry out a clinical trial, and they also face regulatory obstacles. To overcome these limitations, the association will do its best.”

The reason the association’s name included Asia-Pacific was that the association wishes Korea to become a leader in Asia in oncolytic virotherapy, Lee added.


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