One only has to look at statistics to realize how big a player South Korea has become in the outsourcing game. The number of new clinical trials there increased to 513 in 2009 from 206 in 2006, making for a 150% spike over four years.
That's not an accident, experts say, as it seems to be a conscious decision from the government to do that. South Korea boasts short lead times for new trials; startups there are among the quickest in Asia. The country’s well-tuned regulations and Institutional Review Board codes offer a firm legal foundation for vaccine development and approval. And its healthcare infrastructure is solid, too.
Korean clients tend to be well-informed and very clear on their drug development strategies. They have ambitious targets that are focused on the European and U.S. markets.
South Korea is thus emerging as a player in the global biotechnology scene. It is catching up with other Asian countries, such as Japan, and keeping pace with regional competitors like Taiwan, Singapore and China. Winning the bid in 2000 to be the permanent host of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI; http://www.ivi.org/) confirmed South Korea's strong global reputation in the field. The IVIâ€”first initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO; Geneva), the World Bank (Washington, DC, USA), the Rockefeller Foundation (New York) and the United Nations (UN; specifically the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Program, both in New York)â€”seeks to develop and help distribute vaccines for children in impoverished parts of the developing world. The IVI is developing vaccines for diseases that developed countries and profit seeking pharmaceutical firms are less likely to target, including influenza, pneumonia, meningitis, cholera and dengue fever. Funded in part by the South Korean government, and operated out of the Seoul National University campus, the IVI is a magnet for expertise. Already, it has attracted close to 50 researchers from places such as Bangladesh, China,Kenya, Japan, the United States and France.
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