Korea’s MSS Hosts Korea-Japan Bio Ecosystem Roundtable: Fostering Collaboration Between Both Nations

On the 10th, Korea’s Ministry of SMEs and Startups convened a meeting at Shonan iPark in Japan—Asia’s largest bio-cluster—to discuss cooperation measures like joint research and global expansion strategies between Korean bio ventures and Japanese pharmaceutical firms.

The gathering was dubbed the ‘Korea-Japan Bio Ecosystem Roundtable’. The event, chaired by Minister Oh Young-joo of SMEs and Startups, saw participation from high-tech regenerative bio venture leaders, including Joo Ji-hyun, CEO of YiPSCELL, and prominent figures from Japanese pharmaceutical giants like Hiroaki Ueno, Chairman of the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharmaceutical.

Given the bio industry’s nature—marked by high capital demands and significant risk—collaboration between companies is crucial. Open innovation has become a norm globally, especially between bio ventures that develop new drug candidates and pharmaceutical companies with a wealth of experience in bringing new drugs to market.

Participants from Korean bio ventures concurred that only through securing new drug development pipelines from major pharmaceutical companies can they achieve stable business operations and continuous technological innovation. Despite an active bio venture ecosystem in Korea, there are challenges in drug development due to the lack of experience-rich ‘Big Pharma’.

To address these ongoing challenges in new drug development faced by bio ventures, the Korea’s Ministry of SMEs and Startups recently designated North Chungcheong Province as an ‘Advanced Regenerative Bio Global Innovation Special Zone’ as of April 30, 2024. This initiative supports overseas demonstrations and joint research with global companies, aiding in their international expansion. Plans are in place to select 10 companies within this special zone for further support at Shonan iPark, including the development of new technologies and obtaining the necessary licenses for preclinical and clinical trials and global expansion.

During the roundtable, representatives from both countries agreed that economic performance in the bio industry, including new drug development, would improve through collaborative efforts between Korea and Japan. Various suggestions were made regarding what is necessary to foster future business opportunities.

Notably, senior technical executives from Japan’s leading pharmaceutical firms, such as Takeda, Astellas, Otsuka, and Daiichi Sangyo, attended and shared updates on Japan’s new drug development landscape. Attendees expressed optimism that this event would serve as a catalyst for innovative collaboration between Korea’s bio venture ecosystem and Japan’s new drug development sector.

On the preceding day, the ‘Korea – Japan Match Day’ brought together 104 officials from 14 Korean bio ventures and 10 Japanese pharmaceutical firms to discuss joint technological development and clinical trials, with some companies reaching agreements on specific joint projects. Additionally, the Deputy Governor of North Chungcheong Province of Korea met with Vice Governor Kenji Shuto of Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan, where Shonan iPark is located, to discuss inter-governmental cooperation.

Toshio Fujimoto, CEO of Shonan iPark, remarked, “This roundtable has underscored the potential of Korean bio ventures and the capabilities of Japanese pharmaceutical companies in new drug development, setting the stage for Shonan iPark to become a hub of Korea-Japan bio cooperation.”

Minister Oh Young-joo highlighted, “Korea’s advanced bio companies, with their technological prowess, will find new opportunities for challenging research and development and entry into global markets through collaboration with Japan, significantly enhancing human life and safety.”

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