(LEAD) S. Korea to foster biotechnology as new growth engine: finance minister

South Korea will lift regulations to help biotechnology startups utilize the database of hospitals, and foster the industry as a new growth engine, the finance minister said Wednesday.

“The biotechnology sector is emerging as a cutting-edge industry that promotes the growth of new technologies and industries by converging with the digital sector,” Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said during his visit to the production line of Aprogen Inc., a bio firm in Osong, 108 kilometers south of Seoul.

Choo said the government will make efforts to foster the biotechnology sector as the new growth engine of Asia’s No. 4 economy, comparable with the semiconductor industry.

To this end, the finance minister said it will seek to utilize a massive database of the state-run health insurance agency and private hospitals.

“In order to foster data-based digital health care startups, the government plans to proactively lift regulations,” Choo said.

South Korea plans to announce details on ways to foster the biotechnology industry in the near future, he added.

During the visit, officials from local biotechnology firms emphasized the crucial need for the government’s support in the sector, noting it takes significant funding and time to develop and commercialize new products.

“There are still many challenges for local medium-sized ventures, which are not easy to be accomplished,” said Kim Jae-seob, who heads biopharmaceutical company Aprogen. “I hope this visit can lead to the implementation of significant policy measures.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency