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Korea to invest W579b in genomics research

The Korean government plans to invest 579 billion won ($534 million) in genomics research over the next eight years to create and support related industries in the field.

Five ministries will be participating in the project ― the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology; Ministry of Health and Welfare; Ministry of Knowledge Economy; Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs; and Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The plan comes as Korea has been lagging behind other advanced economies in the study of genomics, a division of genetics research, while the technological gap between Korea and the U.S., the world’s biggest biotech country, is widening, government officials said.

Korea has 57 percent as many patents as the U.S., and its spending on genome project development is a mere 0.9 percent of the total budget for biotechnology.

Japan allocates 5.8 percent of its biotech budget to the study of genomes, while the U.S. spends 1.6 percent, according to Korea’s Science Ministry.

Korea will begin its research in genomics in 2014 to develop necessary infrastructure for scientists and engineers to create new and patient-specific drugs, DNA sequencing data equipment and marine resources.

For instance, the Science Ministry will oversee the development of genome data analysis and proprietary technology, while the Knowledge Economy Ministry will pursue R&D in software for data analysis and offer support for commercialization.

Genomes have attracted attention in science for providing biological information encoded in DNA and genes of not only humans but also other living organisms.

Further study in the field could pave the way for scientists to create patient-specific medicines, and preserve marine and agriculture resources, officials said.

By Park Hyong-ki (