With the value of pathogen resources heightening under Nagoya Protocol, Korea needs to manage them far better than now, a report said. The protocol, which took effect recently, enhances each nation’s rights to biological resources that go into food, medicine, and cosmetics.
Pathogen resources refer to valuable resources for healthcare research such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. They can be utilized as biomarkers, and it is becoming more significant to develop them.
The report said the government should protect them as national assets. Under the Article 6 of the Act on Pathogen Resources, the minister of health and welfare should survey the current status and actual condition of the collection of pathogen resource every five years, to identify the status of local pathogen resources and set up a comprehensive plan.
However, researchers who own pathogens are reluctant to share them.
Thus, the government should explain to researchers about gains of sharing pathogen resources fully, to encourage more efficient sharing of resources, some observers said.
The University-Industry Foundation at Yonsei University Wonju Campus said it recently submitted the final version of the “Survey on the status of domestic pathogen resources and pathogen lists,” a commissioned policy research report, to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
“Researchers worry that submitting a list of pathogens might expose their accumulated data. They’re concerned it could be a disadvantage to them,” the report said. “We repeatedly promoted the survey and visited them in person, but it was not easy to make them open the list of pathogens.”
The report called for the government to guarantee the protection of the pathogen resources.
“Unless the government explains sufficiently about what researchers can obtain from unveiling the pathogen resources, individual researchers will find it difficult to share their data,” the report said.
Yonsei researchers also said in the report that the government should prepare criteria regarding approval for taking pathogens out of the country. The state should regulate on excessive export of pathogen resources and protect and manage the rights regarding pathogen resources, they added.
“In 2016, a sample of MERS virus was taken out of the country. Although the government strictly controls the import and domestic travel of a high-risk pathogen, it does not have any regulation on taking it out of the country,” the report said.
The government will find it hard to prevent the leak of a pathogen to a foreign country through the Foreign Trade Act or the Act for the Prohibition of Chemical and Biological Weapons, according to the report.
“Setting up detailed criteria for the approval of pathogen resources’ going out of the country and listing its names can be a significant start to manage local pathogen resources and prevent them from going out of the country,” it said.
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>