UPDATE : Thursday, January 24, 2019
New government set to streamline healthcare R&D projects
  • By Nam Doo-hyun
  • Published 2017.06.15 11:05
  • Updated 2017.06.15 11:05
  • comments 0

The Moon Jae-in administration, which is busy setting up specific strategies to develop biopharmaceutical industry, appears set to straighten up state-funded research and development projects in medical and healthcare area, now scattered among multiple agencies.

“Interagency projects need an improved system,” said Rep. Cho Won-jun조원준, who serves as a specialized member of the ruling Democratic Party’s policymaking committee, during a workshop hosted by Korea Biomedicine Industry Association (KOBIA)한국바이오의약품협회 Tuesday.

"There has been some confusion because different policymaking agencies -- such as the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE)산업통상자원부, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW)보건복지부, and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS)식품의약품안전처 – have been pushing for their respective agenda. We need to give an order to this confusing situation,” Cho said. “Each ministry may have its reason to promote its agenda, which, however, has resulted in the lack of identity and responsibility.”

Cho then called for establishing a strategy to promote biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. He added the ruling party would make public detailed action plans later through additional discussion with the presidential commission on national planning and advice.

“The committee is working out details. The presidential pledges related to bio industry were ‘activating a subcommittee for pharmaceutical, bio, and medical equipment under the presidential committee of the fourth industrial revolution,’ ‘improving insured drug pricing system to reinvigorate Korean new medicines’ advance to global markets,’ and ‘establishing an industry-academy-research cooperation to develop new drugs,’” he said.

KOBIA holds a conference about the direction of bio-medicine industry upon the inauguration of the new government, at Kensington Hotel, Seoul, Tuesday.

‘State-funded R&D projects fail to produce new drugs’

In the debate that followed, the participants also called for the government to improve state-funded R&D project system, pointing out that the selection of research subjects and the direction of overall project are far from investment for developing new growth engine.

Hwang You-kyung황유경, the director of cell treatment lab of Green Cross Labcell녹십자랩셀, acknowledged the state-funded R&D project has been the driving force to develop domestic bio-medicinal industry to the current level, but pointed out government-financed researches have fallen short of producing results at the commercializing stage, attributing it to loopholes in the government’s R&D policy.

As the area that requires changes within the state-funded R&D project, Hwang called for increasing support for startups by university professors, and the strengthening links between academia and industry.

"The academic community needs to focus more on researches that can be commercialized and find partners in the industrial world,” Hwang said. “Academics complain businesses want only near-completed researches, but that’s not true. It just happens that both sides want different things from each other. A look at the state-funded R&D project’s evaluating standards show there are many unrealistic research subjects designated as commercializing tasks. The situation needs improvement.”

A scholar agreed. "Most basic researches in the academy are for finding out a unique subject and write a paper about it. Some young professors have tried to start venture businesses and commercialize their products, but most other professors are not making such efforts engrossed in drawing up treaties,” said Professor Lee Eun-kyu이은규 of Hanyang University. Like foreign pharmaceutical companies, domestic businesses need to invite professors to form a consortium or conference to discover basic researches that suit their corporate needs."

‘Government knows what are the problems and is trying to solve them’

The health-welfare ministry, which is working out the second five-year comprehensive plan to develop pharmaceutical industry, said it is having discussions with many experts to improve the state-funded R&D system.

"About 100 people are discussing the issue to set up the plan. The most difficult question is how to improve R&D system,” said Kim Joo-young김주영, director of the ministry’s Health Industry Promotion Division. “As it is difficult to tell universities conducting basic researches to change their research direction, we think it best to turn their hard-found compounds into commercial products.”

An official from MOTIE said the ministry is also developing a new R&D business model to turn contents in researches into commercialized items.

"It is true there were only a small number of cases, in which pharmaceutical companies made big hits using technologies developed by universities,” said Seo Sung-tae서성태, a section chief at the ministry’s Bio and Nanotechnology Division. “We are preparing an R&D business model, which allows pharmaceutical companies can develop products with technologies made by universities. If there are some successful cases, we hope cooperation between universities and businesses will progress more smoothly than before."


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