Korean AI-driven drug developers seek expansion in overseas markets

KOREA – Korean AI-driven drug developers are establishing overseas branches or a wet lab to seek new business opportunities.

Several AI-backed drug discovery companies have emerged in Korea to find new medicines. Standigm, Syntekabio, Deargen, Oncocross, Pharos iBio, Baobab AiBIO, PharmCADD, and AZothBio are among them.

Cimplrx announced a joint development and licensing agreement with Dong-A ST in September to develop an innovative drug for central nervous system diseases, piqued the interest of the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition, some AI-driven new drug developers have established a web lab, progressing to the R&D stage. A web lab is an experimental lab that handles various types of chemicals and wet hazards.

This strategy differs from previous AI-backed firms, which focused on discovering and optimizing new molecules while leaving compound synthesis and candidate drug development to their partner pharmaceutical firms.

Deargen is collaborating with Daewoong’s subsidiary iN Therapeutics and Shinpoong Pharmaceutical’s affiliated company eFlask to identify new drug candidates. In addition, the company plans to reorganize and launch a new drug research institute this year, as well as establish a wet lab.

A number of other recent collaborations in the AI field have occurred in South Korea, indicating the field’s steady emergence.

CJ Healthcare has also partnered with Syntekabio to develop immuno-oncology drugs using AI, in a collaboration in which Syntekabio will handle the early stages of drug development and CJ Healthcare will conduct clinical trials.

Meanwhile, Daewoong Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. has entered into a co-research agreement on new drug development using AI with the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST).

Korean AI-backed companies are also establishing overseas branches in order to engage more actively with multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Deargen established a U.S. subsidiary in Georgia in September, and Standigm opened a U.K. office in August in collaboration with the Milner Therapeutics Institute of the University of Cambridge to accommodate the company’s rapid growth in the European market.

PharmCADD moved into the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Boston in August, supported by the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association (KPMBA).

In other related news, Korea AI-driven drug development has received major boost as Korean parliament passed a special act to support and nurture the sector.

The Ministry of Science and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) established a research team earlier this year with the goal of advancing the development of innovative drugs using AI and big data.

This will result in the development of big data and AI systems that can predict the relationship between drugs and their targets, as well as drug mechanisms. These platforms will be fully unveiled next year, allowing researchers and businesses to freely use them.

The use of AI in the discovery process is expected to cut the total time and cost required for new drug development in half, according to the ministry, while the market for AI-driven new drug development is expected to grow by an average of 40 percent per year, reaching US$4 billion in 2024.

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