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Health minister asks AI-backed drug-developing support center to go bolder
  • By Jeong Sae-im
  • Published 2019.03.21 14:44
  • Updated 2019.03.21 14:44
  • comments 0

The government has requested a new support center for artificial intelligence-based new drug development to picture a “daring and detailed blueprint.”

Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo made the remark in the opening ceremony of the Center for AI-based New Drug Development Facilitation, at the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association (KPBMA)’s head office in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul, Wednesday.

Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo (second from right) cuts tape at the opening ceremony of the Center for AI-based New Drug Development Facilitation at the head office of the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association in Seoul, Wednesday. (Credit: KPBMA)

KPBMA and Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) jointly established the support center after a task force for the center launched in December 2017. The center opened on Wednesday after over a year of preparations.

Minister Park, KPBMA President Won Hee-mok, KHIDI President Lee Young-chan, and pharmaceutical and AI-related CEOs attended the opening ceremony.

The Center for AI-based New Drug Development Facilitation benchmarked its Japanese counterpart. Riken, the Japanese government-owned research institute, formed Life Intelligence Consortium (LINC) comprised of more than 100 organizations, including IT, pharmaceutical firms, scholars, and research institutions for AI-based new drug development. The Japanese government spent about 110 billion won ($97.6 million) for the project.

Under the consortium, companies offer a business model and an IT firm develops AI for new drug development. Using AI in new drug development is likely to reduce more than half of time and costs, Japanese observers said.

The Korean government decided to follow suit, spending 27.2 billion won on developing AI platforms that can discover drug candidates, design clinical trials, and monitor drugs in smart ways by 2021.

“The center’s role is to make use of original technologies owned by government-funded institutions and academies, to provide platform validation fairly, and to cooperate for platform development through data owned by KPBMA member companies,” said Lee Dong-ho, head of the Center for AI-based New Drug Development Facilitation.

This year, it will focus on training and PR activities to make the most of AI while building cooperative networks with AI-based new drug developing platforms, here and abroad, he added.

After listening to the center’s business plans, Minister Park ordered the center to be more aggressive to execute its plans.

“After hearing its plans, I thought AI-based new drug development was still in infancy. There will be so many things to do such as actively open and share each company’s data and accumulate basic data,” Park said. “I hope the center could draw a more drastic and detailed picture. The government is willing to accept bold ideas.”

Park vowed to support the center actively.

“Not only will the Health and Welfare Ministry but also other agencies, including the Ministry of Science and ICT, spare no effort to help the center play a crucial role,” he said. “We’re soon to draw up a plan to create ‘ecology for new drug development’ and support it systematically.”

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