A Research Village Opens to Lead R&D in Biomedicine,
Korea University Holds Opening Ceremony and Forum for the KU-MAGIC Research Village
▲ From left to right: Jinsung Kim (Director: KU-MAGIC Research Village), Jesang Ko (President: KU Research and Business Foundation), Ho Jang (Professor: Korea University), Hyomyung Kim (Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs: Korea University), Kyung Seun (Chief Director: Osong Medical Innovation Foundation), Namho Lee (Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs: Korea University), Jaeho Yeom (President: Korea University), Chulwoong Yang (Section Chief: Seoul Regional Office of Small and Medium Business Administration), Dongsuk Seo (President: Korea Association of Industry, Academy and Research Institute), and heads of tenant companies taking a group photo after the signboard hanging ceremony
Korea University held an opening ceremony for the KU-MAGIC Research Village with the hopes of growing the village into a leading biomedical research and development community.
In September 2015, the university launched the KU-MAGIC Project, short for the Korea University Medical Applied R&D Global Initiative Center Project. This is a large-scale project that encompasses medicine, research, development, global networking, government-sponsored projects, and technology commercialization.
The excellence of the Korea University Medical Center is already shown by the fact that this is the only medical center in Korea designated as a leading research hospital (both the Anam and Guro Hospitals) by the central government. Korea University has a full range of colleges related to biomedicine, including the College of Medicine, the College of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, the College of Science, the College of Nursing, and the College of Pharmacy—all of which are supported by strong research support and human resources. The KU-MAGIC Project aims to achieve new research results by stimulating multidisciplinary research among the colleges.
The opening ceremony was held on September 6th in order to welcome new tenants of the research village, including company-affiliated research labs, startups, and venture companies. Eighteen companies and research labs related to medical devices, personalized medicine, and smart aging will work with Korea University researchers in the KU-MAGIC Research Village.
The opening ceremony was followed by the KU-MAGIC Forum. Approximately 320 Korea University professors from a wide variety of fields, who held a lively, transdisciplinary discussion on several themes, including virus & infectious diseases, medical devices, precision medicine, smart aging, and big data & artificial intelligence participated in the forum.
In the first session of the forum, facts and figures about the KU-MAGIC were explained and presentations on the progress of technology commercialization and networking were made. Haeryong Song, the head of the KU-MAGIC Technology Business Affairs, introduced foreign cases regarding consortia between governments and businesses, explaining that South Korea should follow this model. In his presentation on technology transfer and business startups in medical colleges, Professor Jaeyoung Sung introduced a newly developed cancer medicine, medical devices, and diagnostics. He also presented the successful case of Newracle Science, a startup company selected for a government-sponsored program in order to develop Alzheimer’s disease treatment. “In order to lead technology transfer and business establishment to success, investors and businesses need to have an integrated and cooperative way of thinking, open and fair practices, and challenging spirit,” said Professor Sung. At the end of the session, fourteen Korea University professors introduced technologies they have developed, on three themes of Diagnosis & Devices, Bio & Synthetic Drugs, and Big Data & Artificial Intelligence.
The second session was about some of the projects invested in by the attending investment companies, the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, and the Chungbuk Regional Office of Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation, as well as bio startups. This session started with a presentation looking at various success and failure cases of investments into medical devices given by Taegyu Lee, the executive director of Wonik Investment Partners. Lee said that “There is a high wall between investors and entrepreneurs, and it takes a quite a long time for them to truly understand one another.” He added, “What venture companies can do for investors is to plan ahead for how to make the most of infrastructure and government grants, and how to secure necessary medical devices.”
The second presentation, focusing on the creation of an ecosystem for biohealth technology business and the Hongneung Cluster Operation Plan, was made by Boyoung Um, the director of the Korea Health Industry Development Institute. She started by presenting success stories of turning Korean biohealth technology into a business and highlighted the absence of a control tower for local R&D clusters. She went on to explain the current progress of biohealth technology commercialization and said that the Hongneung Cluster, which is expected to open in 2018, will serve as a biomedical R&D anchor.
Junghwe Koo, the executive director of LB Investment, made a presentation on the successes and failures of bio startups from the perspective of venture capital. He said, “Given that the U.S. bio venture industry was started nearly 40 years ago, it is fair to say that Korean bio venture, with only 10 years of history, is in its infancy,” emphasizing the importance of more support related to platforms and patent. He also encouraged Korea University professors to keep up the good work of commercializing their technologies.
The fourth presenter, Jonghyun Lee, the head of the KU-MAGIC Synergy IB Bio, talked about the most common problems facing local bio startups: the lack of support system for first-time entrepreneurs, the difficulties in raising initial capital, and the cost-intensive and long R&D periods. He said that the values of local bio companies are increasing and that the recent strategic changes of foreign bio companies have opened a wide window of opportunity for local bio ventures.
Joonwon Yoon, the head of the Chungbuk Regional Office of Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation, closed the second session with his presentation. Yoon outlined government programs for aiding bio ventures and small businesses, as well as specialized regional development programs. He said, “The government is making a huge investment in R&D, but it needs to increase its investment in technology commercialization.” Yoon also explained that the Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation are working on increasing government investment in this area.
(1) Korea University is planning to build on its achievements in virus and infectious disease research in order to establish a multidisciplinary system in collaboration with the best and the brightest in Korea. (2) Korea University will create an open platform for developing high-tech medical devices, thus supporting the cooperation between the information technology (IT) and biotechnology (BT) sectors. (3) Precision medicine researchers will focus on research on personalized medicine, as well as genomes and proteins in order to develop next-generation cancer treatment. (4) Research on smart aging will focus on developing foods and medicines that ensure healthy life outcomes. (5) Research on big data and artificial intelligence will be centered on using artificial intelligence in medicine.
President Jaeho Yeom of Korea University said in his welcome speech, “This opening ceremony will be the starting point for Korea University and the tenant companies to create business networks in an efficient way. The KU-MAGIC Research Village will create synergy with the Hongneung Biomedical Cluster Program thanks to its geographical advantage. Korea University will do its best to provide the tenant companies with the very best biomedical platform and facilities.”
Jinsung Kim, the director of the KU-MAGIC Research Village, stated, “The primary purpose of the research village is to support small and medium businesses to build capacity. The research results of the tenant companies will not only help grow the research power of biomedicine and their business, but also contribute to national and global development.”
Dongsuk Seo, the president of the Korea Association of Industry, Academy and Research Institute, said “Organizing a consortium between universities and small businesses has become a major part of what universities do. One of the major roles of universities is social contribution. I hope that the research village will serve as infrastructure for industry-academic cooperation.”
Hongbin Kim, the director of the Seoul Regional Office of Small and Medium Business Administration, who was unable to attend the ceremony, sent the participants a congratulatory message, which read: “The KU-MAGIC Project is a milestone in our way to get ahead in global competition to develop the best industry-academic network. I hope that the research labs of small and medium businesses nested in the research village can make a new leap forward.”
The KU-MAGIC Research Village is expected to serve as an incubator to support R&D activities—from basic research to technology commercialization—and as a capacity for the building of small and medium businesses, so that they can eventually create new jobs and revitalize the national economy.