The Korean government said it would designate artificial intelligence (AI)-based new drug development and healthcare innovation as national tasks for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare and other related ministries finalized the “Strategies for Healthcare Advancement based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution” at a meeting by a presidential committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Monday.
The healthcare sector is emerging as the most promising industry for convergence in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and is growing rapidly worldwide.
The healthcare industry encompasses new growth businesses such as optimal treatment for patients using AI and genetic information. Experts have been calling for the government’s support for the sector to nurture it as the engine for the nation’s innovative growth.
Since December last year, the presidential committee has operated a “Healthcare Special Committee,” comprised of civilian experts and officials from related ministries, to discuss future visions for the healthcare and tasks to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The government has set the vision of the healthcare advancement strategies as “making a society where everyone is healthy with Korean technologies leading the global market.”
Major tasks include healthcare big data production and operation of a pilot management system, new drug development using AI, the establishment of the smart clinical trial system, development of smart fusion medical devices, and the establishment of an innovation ecosystem for the healthcare industry.
Under the “Healthcare Big Data Showcase Project,” the government will integrate and analyze health/medical/genetic data of 300 healthy people and cancer survivors, accumulate healthcare big data-using experiences, and utilize the data to develop standardized data from 2019 to 2021,
The government will also enhance the nation’s competitiveness of new drug development by saving time and cost through the use of AI.
To do so, the government said it would develop an AI-based platform that can be used throughout the stages of new drug development including the discovery of candidate substance, preclinical tests, and smart drug monitoring. At the same time, the government decided to nurture experts who can collect and manage bid data, using the AI platform.
Besides, the government will provide education for employees at pharmaceutical companies to help them carry out studies using the AI platform.
Building a smart clinical trial system is another goal of the government to reinforce support for novel medicine development.
Through the Clinical Trial Management System (CTMS), the government will seek to unify different management systems at different centers and improve the efficiency and quality of clinical trials by developing next-generation clinical trial techniques. During multi-center clinical trials, the government will operate a pilot mutual certification system for Institutional Review Board (IRB)’s research ethics reviews. Also, the government will reduce the approval process for new drugs by innovative pharmaceutical firms.
To develop smart fusion medical devices, the government will also support research and development, help create the demand and ease regulations.
By improving the new medical technology review system, the government will have a separate tool to evaluate innovative medical technologies’ potential values. As for in-vitro medical devices, the government will allow new products to arrive in the market first and assess their creative values later.
Then, all stages of investment in healthcare -- from securing a technology to starting up a business to seeking growth and to recovering investment to reinvesting -- will become more dynamically connected, the government said.
The health and welfare ministry also plans to link regional bio-health clusters with provincial hospitals and support the construction of “Field Lab” to promote joint research between hospitals and businesses to accelerate “Open Innovation.”
“The healthcare industry is going through a sea change due to unprecedented technologies and new services, along with the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said.
He noted that the domestic drugmakers clinched four licensing-out deals for new drug development in November alone and that the biotech industry recorded 4.8 trillion won worth licensing-out deals this year.
“The biotech and healthcare sectors have entered the global market with excellent technological power, increasing investment, export, and jobs altogether,” Park added.
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