2022-08-15| Asia-PacificSpecial

BIOPLUS-INTERPHEX Korea 2022: The Now and Tomorrow of Korea’s Biotechnology Industry

by Aurora Mau
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BIOPLUS-INTERPHEX KOREA (BIX) was held from August 3-5 in person at COEX, Seoul. With the theme, K-BIO Value Chain, the event encompasses biopharmaceutical value chains, including R&D, manufacturing process, logistics, packaging, CMO/CDMO, AI, and big data. 

In the opening ceremony, Christopher Hansung Ko, the President of Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization (Korea BIO) and the CEO of Samsung Bioepis, made the opening remarks. Ko said that the event is the first in-person event in 3 years and was more than happy to welcome participants and companies from all over the world joining to connect with the global biotech network through this exhibition.

Jang Young Jin, Deputy Minister of the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, also made a speech during the opening remarks, stating that Korea’s biotech industry has progressed tremendously over the past 20 years, including in cell and gene therapy (CGT), and synthetic biology. The semiconductor industry has been instrumental in driving the advancement of pharmaceutical technology to provide better treatments to patients worldwide.

JB Son, Country Managing Director in Reed Exhibitions Korea, shared his vision for the present and future of BIOPlus. Through the collaboration between Korea BIO and Interphex, it is hoped that BIOPLUS will soon become the premier biotech exhibition in Asia and one of the top 3 in the world.

Related article:  South Korea’s Biotech Industry:Trends, Landscape, and Clusters Overview

K-BIO’s Now and Tomorrow

Following the grand opening ceremony, the first keynote session, “K-BIO’s now and tomorrow,” kicked off. The panel was moderated by Hyunsil Ahn, Director of the Korea Economic Daily (KED), along with core experts from Korea’s biotechnology industry, Mahnsoon Hwang, CEO of Korea Investment Partners, James Lee, CEO of Bridge Biotherapeutics, and Younhee Choi, a senior research fellow from the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade (KIET). The panel not only discussed the current issues raised by the start-ups and investors, it also provided perspectives from the public side.

The panelists first addressed that since numerous biotech companies were allowed to enter the public market in 2005, Korea’s biotechnology industry has made its own revolution in the past 20 years. However, compared to the main focus of Korea’s industry, semiconductor, the panelists still think the biotechnology industry has more room to grow.

Hwang asked the investors to have more faith in the IPO in Korea. With more than 3000 companies in the biotechnology industry, what Korea urgently needs at the moment is to have production sites for the therapeutic products as well as the Korean government’s full support.

Hwang also addressed the potential problem of why M&A is not popular in Korea’s biotech industry. With the heritage tradition, big companies in Korea tend to let the next generation of founders take over their legacies. Hwang suggested that the selection of the CEO role should be decided by the board with a greater vision, and IPO (initial public offering) is another potential solution. 

Lee further brought up the current status of Korea’s biotech industry. With too many start-ups, the whole industry has been divided into small fragments; thus, it can be challenging to compete globally.

Choi shared her perspective of Korea’s industry as a consultant for various public biotech organizations and local governing bodies.  Choi pointed out that the Korean biotechnology industry made 17.4 trillion KRW ($12.5 billion) in 2020, accounting for 2.9% of the global market. 

However, the number should have been 5-6 times higher, and the industry’s size should have also been bigger. Among the top 100 pharmaceutical companies in the global biotech market, there are only 2 from Korea, Samsung Biologics and SK bioscience.

Choi further gave two suggestions for future breakthroughs. The first is to collaborate between all sizes of companies in order to create a much bigger private investment pool for smaller companies. The second is to invest big in research and development. By increasing the number of clinical trials, a bigger value chain in the biotechnology industry can be formed.

Keynote Session: K-BIO’s now and tomorrow

Government support is another key to the Korean biotech industry’s growth. Choi also said that, with better policies on M&A, pricing control, and licensing, Korea will have a more efficient environment to collaborate and grow together.

With the vision of making BIOPLUS-INTERPHEX Korea a platform as a bridgehead for the Korean biotechnology industry to expand on the world stage to become Asia’s best biotechnology industry, over 40 sessions with a total of 120 speakers were scheduled during the event. Stay tuned for more cover stories regarding the session!

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