Biocon’s Target Factory

South Korea’s 8-year effort to create an integrated platform for novel target and lead development provides an academic drug discovery model for other emerging economies.

Innovative drug discovery and development remains a profound, decades-long challenge even in established US biotech centers such as Boston and San Francisco. In many other places in the world, key facets of the drug discovery ecosystem are often missing or suboptimal. South Korea is no different. Although it has a growing biotech-services and biosimilar sector, robust companies capable of sustaining innovative therapeutic development programs remain rare. The challenge of building a national infrastructure or companies with critical mass capable of carrying out novel target discovery and lead development prompted the South Korean government to create the Medicinal Bioconvergence Research Center (Biocon) in 2010.

In this article, we describe the center’s inception, outline its main principles and strategy, provide a status update on its pipeline of products, and discuss how its principles may be relevant in other regions lacking similar requisite expertise and resources for innovative drug discovery and development.

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