LSN Connects with Innovative Medicine Salon: Korea’s Hub for Life Science Discovery

29 Aug

By Claire Jeong, Director of Research, Asia BD, LSN


In one of our recent newsletters, Dennis Ford, CEO of Life Science Nation, wrote about the Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Conference series’ expansion into Asia Pacific.  LSN has established a global partnering ecosystem, and by bringing RESI to Asia we are forming a bridge between promising early-stage innovation and investors/strategic partners. Last month, several colleagues and I traveled to different parts of Asia with the ultimate goal of expanding LSN’s network, promoting the inaugural RESI Asia (11/12 Shanghai & 11/14 Taipei), and identifying synergies with various groups in the life science industry, as well as attending BIO Asia Taiwan.

I had the privilege of presenting a high-level overview of Life Science Nation and RESI to a very intriguing gathering in South Korea called “Innovative Medicine Salon”. The Innovative Medicine Salon started in 2012 in Daejeon – one of South Korea’s leading hub in science and technology – as a small gathering of life science professionals (scientists, professors, doctors, etc.) who would organize talks highlighting various thought-provoking topics regarding the theme of “innovative drug discovery”. As South Korea’s biotech ecosystem rapidly grew, the Innovative Medicine Salon continued to expand into other key cities such as Pangyo, another emerging city in the fields of biotech and IT, as well as Osong, Daegu, and Songdo. Earlier this year in May, South Korea President Jae-In Moon visited the Innovative Medicine Salon gathering in Osong as part of his Nationwide Economic Tour. During his visit in Osong, President Moon announced plans to help foster the South Korean biotech ecosystem, especially in the early stages of research and development (for those who are interested, I’ve added a more detailed history of the Innovative Medicine Salon at the end of this article).

▲ South Korea President Jae-In Moon visits the Innovative Medicine Salon in Osong (May 2019).

I participated in the July “Innovative Medicine Salon” in Pangyo, speaking alongside James Jungkue Lee, CEO of Bridge Biotherapeutics, a venture-stage biotech company that recently entered into a collaboration and global license agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim for their BBT-877 (autotaxin inhibitor for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis). Despite the session taking place on a weekday evening, there were over 100 life science professionals in the audience; from budding scientist-entrepreneurs to researchers, everyone in the audience shared a genuine curiosity for novel research and the global promise of South Korea’s biotech industry.

▲ LSN presented at the Innovative Medicine Salon in Pangyo (July 2019).

South Korea is a key example of the emergence and growth of biotech industries globally. With the ever-increasing surge of new therapies and technologies, the need for a global platform that can successfully connect early-stage innovations with investors and strategic partners is evident. LSN was founded in 2012 to fulfill this very purpose, when no full-fledged infrastructure for early-stage life science technologies existed.

Now could not be a better time for people to take advantage of the global ecosystem LSN has fostered, and we hope that our expansion into Asia could lead to more valuable connections that will ultimately lead to investment, licensing, and/or other win-win partnerships.

Special thanks to Sung Joo “SJ” Lee, Founder of Innovative Medicine Salon, for contributing to this article. SJ remarked that LSN and Innovative Medicine Salon have a lot of similarities – both were established in the same year and are working on growing the life science ecosystem with their own unique approaches. SJ has been inspired by LSN’s role in connecting early-stage innovations with investors and strategic partners, and hopes that LSN and Innovative Medicine Salon can continue to positively impact the life science community.

Check our RESI Shanghai & RESI Taipei Agenda Here!

Detailed Overview of Innovative Medicine Salon

In previous years, South Korea’s bio industry was focused on the development of incrementally modified drugs (IMDs) and biosimilars. As the field of novel drug discovery and development continued to grow, so did the need for a “first mover” approach, as opposed to the existing “fast follower” strategy. The need for collaborating and interacting with various external experts, creating new ideas, and fostering open innovation became a high area of need in the industry. The “Innovative Medicine Salon” started in 2012 with a small group of researchers in Daejeon who shared this vision.

The group members gathered and listened to seminars of domestic and global experts on the theme of “innovative medicine” and debated about various topics. Their passion for innovative drug discovery and thirst for knowledge and exchange of information fueled discussions in the casual networking sessions that followed.

Information about the Innovative Medicine Salon quickly spread via word of mouth among academia, researchers, and other industry professionals. Attendance from other regions of South Korea grew, with people often trekking 2 hours or more to reach the event. It was only a matter of time before the Innovative Medicine Salon expanded to Pangyo, a city well-known for their thriving biotech and IT startup community. At Pangyo, 50 to as many as 180 attendees gathered every month, continuing the exchange of valuable opinions to everyone’s mutual benefit. Naturally, IMS fortified its position as an important support system for everyone embarking on new challenges in the field of innovative drug discovery. From thereon, Innovative Medicine Salon gatherings expanded into (1) Osong (home to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and other institutions dedicated to accelerating new drug development), (2) Daegu (home to the Korea Brain Research Institute and several biotech companies), and (3) Songdo (home to leading CMOs such as Samsung Biologics and Celltrion).

IMS is unique in that it is volunteer driven, independent from large institutions or corporations, which enables a more free, spontaneous academic exchange – the members who voluntarily take on operating roles include full-time biotech CEOs, professors, service providers, patent lawyers, and more.

Apart from offline meetings, the Innovative Medicine Salon operates a thriving Facebook group with over 4,000 members through which people regularly share and exchange information.

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