Brave New World of VCs
Government policy has promoted the creation of start-up companies with the intention of expanding research and technological innovation. Aside from drug development, the interest in stem cell research has led to the use of cell technology for novel therapeutic approaches. Genomics and information technology have also been key areas with the potential for new diagnostics and devices.
Macrogen is among the earliest biotechnology companies, having been established in 1997, with a focus on genomics applications.
The company has developed and marketed a series of product lines including the MacArray Express Oligochip for determining the degree of gene expression, and the MacArray Karyo for identifying chromosomal aberrations. It also designs and produces MacProbe products to assay for specific sequences.
In addition to its products, the company provides a variety of services such as sequencing and gene knockout. Macrogen has created a number of research institutes designed to support its services and technological base, such as the Life Science Institute, which has sequenced the Zymomonas mobilis genome (this microbe is one of the most efficient ethanol producers), the Bioinformatics Research Center, and the LentiVector Institute, which develops lentiviral vector systems for gene delivery both in vivo and in vitro.
Hans Biomed was established in 1993. In order to expand its activities, it built the Hans DaeDeok Institute (HDI) in June, 2002, combining both research laboratories and production lines. Hans has invested $1.2 million in two research institutes, HDI and the Hans Institute of Tissue Engineering (HITE), and cooperates with the animal cell engineering lab at KAIST (Korea Advance Institute of Science and Technology).
Hans uses its tissue-engineering technology for products such as human-based skin and bone grafts, soft tissue restoring injectable products, active medical ingredients, and silicone polymer products.
Sewon Cellontech was established in 1971 and applies cellular- and tissue-engineering technologies to medical treatments. Cellontech has three core businesses: chemical production, precision mechanics, and bioengineering. It has expanded its business by seeking partners for its regenerative medical system.
Tego Science specializes in artificially cultured skin and uses its cultured skin technology in three applications: regenerate damaged or diseased skin, test drugs and cosmetics, and bank keratinocytes from an individual for possible future use.
MyGene produces DNA chips that are used for early cancer diagnosis, and for life-style management for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and also life-threatening common cancers.
Korea boasts a powerful industrial infrastructure that includes some of the world’s most important conglomerates. The country has a skilled and educated work force. Government action has been the driving force for restructuring the pharmaceutical industry and making biotechnology the basis for new business activities and firms.