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International R&D Industry-Con 2023
 

Korean and French Biotech

by Zachary Petit

November 14th and 15th, 2023 
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On November 14th and 15th, 2023, the International R&D Industry Con 2023 (IRIC 2023), supported by KEY, took place at the Daejeon Convention Center in South Korea. The aim of this event was to bring together Korean and European actors in the research and healthcare industry, both from institutions and companies, to give them a framework in which to exchange and collaborate, and to enable them to export to the European market.

 

“International R&D Industry Convention 2023 (IRIC 2023) is an international event for the consumers and suppliers of the R&D industry. Companies, research organizations, universities as well as researchers interested in utilizing R&D in their business will participate in the event for sharing ideas and looking for future collaborations. EU-Korea International Cooperation is intended to enhance the reciprocal understanding of Europe 's bio/health industry.”

 

KEY, as a supporter of the event,  was in charge of the  international cooperation program. The contribution of KEY to this conference fits with KEY’s purpose which is to provide a platform for discussion, collaboration, and innovation between Korea and Europe. In order to deal with the evolution in the biotech industry, we believe that by bringing together institutions, corporates, academia and individuals from different backgrounds, new ideas, solutions and projects can be created through intercultural innovation and the setting up of mutually enriching ecosystems. Biotech is a complex but central issue for the European and Korean economies, and KEY is keen to position itself and develop its activities around this topic.

Korean Biotech

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Although Biotech is a relatively new topic in Korea, it has quickly become a priority of the Korean government. Professor Jisook Moon from the CHA University affirms that biotechnology will be the core of the economy in the future, in particular concerning human life and health. Biotechnology contributes to the improvement of human welfare by overcoming diseases, providing food safety and promoting a healthy environment. The Korean government has set the bioindustry as one of the three priorities of innovation.

Korea is emerging as a new powerhouse in the world by creating an industrial ecosystem: K-BIO. The number of Bio Startups in Korea has been continuously increasing for almost 10 years, and these startups are expanding. South-korean government’s investment in Biotechnology also keeps increasing. Today, 3,5% of SCI papers in biotech field are from South Korea (12th in the world), and the country has the highest proportion of the publicly traded  Biotech Companies.

According to Professor Moon, K-BIO is very dynamic, well-adapted, and fast moving. Open research and industry are being developed with an established infrastructure by active investment and the creation of a bio-ecosystem through various collaborations. To illustrate it, she mentioned the fast response of the Korean government to the Covid-19. At the beginning of the pandemy, the government created 4 research tasks to find answers to these new challenges. Korea’s quarantine model and system has been adopted by other countries, and the rapid development and support for Covid-19 diagnostic test kits allowed South Korea to keep tracking the national situation of the pandemic. Many Korean companies contributed to this effort, and Korea could export test kits in 150 countries. 

 

K-BIO is very dynamic, well-adapted, and fast moving

The Korean bioindustry is still in its early stage. Korea has a shorter experience in K-bio than Europe. Therefore, South Korea needs to cooperate in this field, to keep improving and maintaining its leading position. Thus, South-korean government implemented a Global Strategy of bioindustry turned toward international cooperation (Convergent, Innovative, Creative Research). 

This strategy relies on finding answers through international joint research. This can be achieved by supporting global startups in their activities and developments, to foster innovation. Furthermore, the government aims to establish an industrial ecosystem that connects research and industry. This is considered as the next step after innovation, to allow startups to commercialize their technology and thus be sustainable. Therefore, innovation goes with industry development. Finally, even though Korea’s strategy is mostly based on its startups and companies and their development, the government seeks for a strong national infrastructure to make this development possible.

French Biotech

France has also its own strategy regarding Biotech: the France Healthcare Innovation 2030 strategy.  This plan was launched in 2021, and aims to place France as a leader of the Biotech industry within Europe and in the world. This initiative came as an answer to the Covid-19 pandemic, which showed the importance of having a competent and reactive national healthcare system. To achieve this, France is investing 7 billion euros until 2030, mostly for the development of biotherapies and to support the growth of french biotech startups. The goal is to provide an economic environment that is both predictable and consistent with industrial and healthcare independence to give startups and small companies the context that they need to develop and become international leaders. The strategy is also seeking to create a structure in order to foster and drive strategic innovation in healthcare. The France Healthcare Innovation 2030 strategy relies on the AAISS system (Anticipate, Accelerate, Invest, Support, Stimulare).

Thus, the French approach can be compared with the Korean one, as they both intend to strengthen their national infrastructure, to allow their companies to have access to the international market.

At the IRIC 2023 conference, this strategy was presented by members of France Biotech, leaders of the French biotech industry. Founded in 1997, France Biotech now has almost 600 members and 20 investors on its board. France Biotech is a networking organization, whose mission is to share and exchange biotech knowledge and know-how between companies in different countries. It also acts as a Think Tank, as the organization is divided into several Working Groups working on different areas of cooperation (research, development, legal issues, etc.). Their partners are not only biotech industries or labs, but also consulting agencies, investment platforms, banks or universities. France Biotech's ambition is to become the reference in terms of cooperation and biotech legislation for companies wishing to export to France, and to become the point of contact for these companies with institutional players. With their diverse network, they can assist their partners at every stage of their project. Their aim is to help startups and small companies develop into major international firms on the biotech scene.

Talks with Korean Biotech startups

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During the IRIC 2023 conference, Korean biotech startups were also invited to present their projects and benefit from the speakers' advice. This rather original format set the event apart from other biotech forums, offering live counseling sessions between speakers and startup representatives. The audience was thus able to follow the fruitful exchanges between startup representatives and other professionals.

 

France Biotech members could comment on the startups’ projects and give them advice on how to integrate the European market. Every startup expressed the will to extend their activity to Europe, and therefore needed some advice. During the discussions, members of the French Biotech pointed out the technologies developed by the startups to reach Europe. Thus, French Biotech listed some points that Korean startups need to pay particular attention when planning to export to the European market.​

France Biotech's recommandations:

  • First, they highlighted the fact that a technology with multiple possible applications will be easier to export to Europe. Startups should not focus only on human health, as their product will be perceived as too specific and less actors might be interested.

  • Europe is known for its strict and complete regulation system, for both health and research. Therefore, startups need to be particularly careful about clinical test regulation in Europe, especially for human applications.

  • Furthermore, to pass these tests, they will have to prove that their technology is entirely safe and has no risks for human health. Thus, to come to Europe, startups need to set safety as a priority, from the test section to the commercialization of the technology or the product.

  • European countries have some of the best insurance systems in the world. For example, France is known for having the insurance system that covers the biggest part of costs. Therefore, companies should consider this parameter before planning to extend their activity in Europe.

  • Even though Biotech is older in Europe, it is still a very precise and niche sector. Some technologies require a very precise knowledge which can be a barrier. Hence, these startups need to focus on the explanation and the support in data analysis if it is necessary.

  • Finally, they explained that the duration of test sections must be under control. Some companies, after long test sessions, failed to commercialize and manufacture their product.

In conclusion, the exchange session between Korean startups and French Biotech members provided valuable insights and constructive criticism for the Korean innovators. The focus of the discussion shifted towards the European market's specific needs and regulations, emphasizing the importance of diverse applications, cautious navigation of clinical trial regulations, and the priority of safety throughout the development process. These takeaways will undoubtedly equip the Korean startups with a more informed approach as they strive to expand their reach into the European market.

KEY Takeaways

South Korea's recent rapid development has positioned it as a leader in the biotech sector. Its strategy is driving many start-ups to collaborate and open up to foreign markets in order to share and acquire expertise. France and Europe, for their part, have a longer history with biotech, and today represents a benchmark. However, the recent pandemy could point out deficiencies in the French healthcare system and revealed the need for an upgrade in this field. A partnership between Europe and Korea can only be beneficial for both parties and for the advancement of biotech. However, because of certain barriers, but also because of prejudices and preconceived ideas, exchanges between these two regions are still limited and would benefit from further development.

A partnership between Europe and Korea can only be beneficial for both parties and for the advancement of biotech

This type of event is essential for the development of these partnerships. The three startups present were able to exchange ideas and receive valuable advice on their working methods, and on how to integrate the European market. The importance of this exchange can be underlined by the cultural difference between Europe and Korea, and the fact that regulations, particularly in terms of health and research, vary enormously. This makes it all the more important for investors wishing to set up in Europe to be informed about these differences.

KEY is eager to persist in promoting these initiatives and endorsing events that strengthen the connection between Korea and Europe. Collaboration on biotech and healthcare matters holds significant mutual benefits. Leveraging its network, KEY aims to serve as an anchor point for companies on both sides seeking support, emerging as a pivotal supporter of biotech initiatives between Europe and Korea. With an established dedicated working group (Healthcare & Biotech), KEY will continue fostering exchanges at academic, scientific, political, and business levels.

KEY aspires to position itself and advance its activities in Biotech and Healthcare. Whether through article publications or conference organization, we emphasize the importance of spotlighting this sector to facilitate collaboration between Europe and Korea. Given the increasing centrality of Biotech to both regions’ economies and our shared future, KEY endeavors to support this development by becoming a key reference for knowledge and interactions on both sides.

Korean Biotech startups

IVIM Technology Inc was founded based on the innovative technology of IntraVital Microscopy developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Technology (KAIST) IntraVital Microscopy is a cutting-edge technique that enables a dynamic 3D imaging of live cells in various internal organs of a live animal model in vivo. With this technique, it is possible to visualize various cellular-level dynamics such as cell trafficking, cell-to-cell or cell-to-microenvironment interactions in a natural microenvironment in a live animal, which is not possible with conventional imaging technologies such as MRI or CT.

IntraVital Microscopy enables a direct imaging analysis for the monitoring of drug delivery to target cells and its efficacy, validating its mode of action in a live animal model in vivo.

It’s a novel tool for drug discovery and development with improved accuracy and reliability by enabling a direct in situ analysis of drugs in target cells in vivo. It has been used to directly analyze delivery and efficacy of biopharmaceuticals such as antibodies, cell therapy, gene therapy, nucleic acids and exosomes acting at the cellular level in  an in vivo microenvironment in real living organisms.

The world’s first All-in-One intravital microscopy (IVM) platform developed by IVIM Technology is a novel versatile tool to investigate dynamic cellular-level pathophysiology of various human diseases and develop novel therapeutics at an unprecedented level.

GenKOre is a Korea-based biotech company that has been spun-off from the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology (KRIBB), providing genome-editing solutions for genetic manipulations of eukaryotic cells including plant, animal and human. GenKOre is dedicated to developing gene-editing therapy for rare diseases that otherwise have no therapeutic options available. GenKOre uses hypercompact CRISPR technology, coined TaRGET (Tiny nuclease/augment RNA-based Genome Editing Technology).

TaRGET is characterized by a self-sufficient minimalist in genome-editing technology due to its deliverability, high efficiency, persistence, high safety and expandability. The expandability is associated with hyper-compactness of the TaRGET system, which they leveraged to create an AAV-deliverable adenine base editing system. The hypercompact TaRGET technologies allow specific and flexible editing via AAV or LNP delivery in vitro as well as in vivo.

GenKOre is collaborating with several companies that aim to develop new plant varieties, cancer immunotherapy, and in vivo genome-editing therapeutics for various genetic disorders. They envision that our gene-editing platform can harness the development of best-in-class gene-editing therapies and thus offer hope in life for patients with various genetic defects.

LABnPEOPLE is an innovative biomedical company that develops healthcare products based on bioactive materials consisting of essential minerals found in the human body. Our product line includes microneedle patches, aesthetic implants, and wearable electroceuticals that utilize these materials,as well as a minimally invasive device for treating spinal stenosis. 

LABnPEOPLE has submitted over 100 patent applications and currently holds 37 registered patents related to our technology. They have successfully commercialized a distinctive microneedle patch made from bioactive materials consisting of essential minerals, and we have other products in preparation for commercialization. 

LABnPEOPLE’s technology has substantial growth potential, and we collaborate with numerous global companies. By embracing innovation, we have established a strategic technology alliance with the global giant Shiseido. Their products are now available in leading retail chains.

About the Authors

Zachary Petit

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KEY Intern

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