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“Dr. Hwang! Let’s Compete Together!”

Posted October. 26, 2005 07:33,   


“For healing incurable diseases, we will advance Dr. Hwang Woo-suk’s embryonic stem cell research.”

In Korea, there exists more than just Dr. Hwang’s embryonic stem cell research. Adult stem cell research in Korea has also attained world-class status.

The Seoul city government plans to establish the Public Umbilical Cord Blood Bank and Adult Stem Cell Research Center to research and treat incurable diseases. Three bioscience companies – “RNL Bio,” “Histostem,” and “ACTS” – are participating and have representatives who have shown strong confidence in commercializing the adult stem cell research.

Adult stem cells are not fully capable of differentiating into stem cells within mature tissues and organs in a body, but they are very safe without touching upon ethical controversies.

We Will Be the Pioneers in Curing Intractable Diseases –

“Adult stem cells will be commercialized sooner than the embryonic ones. For the diseases that are impossible to be cured with adult stem cells, they are likely to be cured by (Dr. Hwang’s research team) embryonic stem cells.”

CEO of RNL Bio Na Jung-chan (41) said, “Adult stem cells have a high likelihood of curing diseases with fewer side effects.” He also added there is no carcinogen in them so they are extremely safe.

Mr. Na mentioned five kinds of “Priority Diseases”: hip joint disease, brain infarction, diabetes, Burger’s disease, and dementia.

Now the company has even advanced to the point of performing “animal validity tests” in which it injected stem cells into a beagle to experiment on hip joint fractures.

CEO of Histostem Han Hoon said, “We have now reached the point of actual treatment of intractable patients.”

Han added, “Dr. Hwang and his colleagues will have to cooperate with us in resolving the side effects of embryonic stem cell treatments,” adding, “We will put more efforts in curing Alzheimer`s disease, chronic renal failure, and diabetes.”

CEO of ACTS Yoo Byung-ok said, “There have been many research achievements in embryonic stem cell research in Korea but with ethical controversies,” adding, “We will strive to commercialize it as soon as possible by investing 15 billion won over the next five years.”

World-class Research Technology-

Histostem, which was established in 2000 as a laboratory venture company of the Catholic University of Korea, has grown into the world’s largest umbilical cord blood bank, with around 65,000 units in storage. An estimated 350 foreign patients are on the waiting list to be cured.

Mr. Han said, “Stem cells have been separated from the umbilical cord blood since 2000,” adding, “We believe applying it to treatments as soon as possible is more urgent than merely research it.”

ACTS used to be in the texture and leisure businesses, but after Mr. Yoo became the boss in 2001, the company radically changed its course from “brick and mortar” business” to the bio business, as the former would make it hard to raise corporate values.

As of now, the company is negotiating over the possible acquisition of a pharmaceutical company. It is planning to position its pharmaceutical research institute and stem cell cultivation center in its 13-story building in Gasan-dong, Geumcheon-gu, Seoul.

RNL Bio is a research-based company whose management team is mostly composed of professors of Seoul National University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine and Korea University Medical Center. Mr. Na himself is a bio-scientist from Seoul National University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine.

Recently, the company formed a joint agreement on adult stem cell research with Yuhan Corporation, accelerating the speed of the research. It is currently undergoing the world’s first process of commercializing separated stem cells from fat.

Mr. Na said, “In terms of adult stem cell research, there is almost no gap between Korea and the U.S.”

Jae-Dong Yu jarrett@donga.com