Insight – New Korean bio-health strategy triggers opportunities for Australia in the life sciences sector

In May 2019, South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, announced an ‘Innovative Strategy on the Bio-health Industry’. This new strategy for bio-health will provide partnership and collaboration opportunities for Australian companies across various sectors including the commercialisation of research and development (R&D), clinical trials and digital health.

The core elements of the strategy involve:

  • Establishing ‘National Bio Big Data’ on up to a million people to be utilised in R&D on personalised new drugs and medical technology by 2029
  • Increasing government investment in R&D on innovative drugs and medical devices
  • Raising government investment in R&D to over A$4.71 billion (KRW4 trillion) to develop innovative new drugs and medical devices by 2025
  • Developing a master plan on nurturing professionals in the bio-health field
  • Creating an open innovation ecosystem between leading companies, startups and venture-capital firms.

Opportunities for Australia

Australia’s capacity and capabilities are well matched with some of the main task areas of the Korean government’s implementation plan. This places Australia as a strong candidate to become a destination of choice and a sought-after strategic partner in the following areas:

Commercialising translational research: The Korea Drug Development Fund (KDDF) is a government-initiated drug development program. To foster open innovation, it introduces innovative pipelines being developed outside Korea to Korean pharmaceutical companies and research institutes for licensing-in or co-development.

Fast tracking clinical trials: The demand for Australian clinical trials capabilities – in particular in early phase clinical trials – will likely remain high and generate complementary strengths with later-phase clinical trials in Korea.

Digital health: Australia’s diverse digital health ecosystems and a national interoperable infrastructure allow Korean companies and investors with new digital health products and services to choose Australia as a test bed to validate, launch and commercialise new products and services as part of their global expansion.

Collaborative foundation

Korea is Australia’s 4th largest trading partner, and the two nations have enjoyed a complementary partnership over many years. The bio-health industry is no exception. The Korean Government’s new strategy will provide a vast array of new complementary partnership opportunities for Australian bio-health related organisations.

Since 2014, Austrade Korea – in partnership with AusBiotech – has represented the Australian biotech industry at BioKorea, which is Korea’s largest biotechnology conference. Led by AusBiotech and strongly supported by MTPConnect, the Australian delegation at BioKorea 2019 was the largest ever, and included representatives from 18 biotechnology companies involved in clinical trials, regenerative medicine and medical research. 

Austrade Korea also coordinates Korean delegations to Australia’s annual AusBiotech Conference. Austrade anticipates a large Korean contingent at this year's conference, to be held in Melbourne from 30 October. The delegation will consist of leading Korean biotech and pharmaceutical companies as well as investors. Austrade will continue to support an Australian presence at BioKorea 2020, in partnership with AusBiotech.

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