By Kim Hyun-bin
Korean bio companies are receiving inquiries from around the globe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as the early development of coronavirus diagnostic test kits has started to pay off handsomely with countries worldwide in hopes to ink deals to import the products.
Experts believe the early development of the test kits and the products' competitiveness over global market players has been crucial to the success of the diagnostic kits.
According to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Sunday, 53 locally made diagnostic kits have received approval for export as of Friday, including five kits from five bio companies which have been approved for emergency use locally.
The five companies are Seegene, Solgent, Kogene Biotech, SD Biosensor and Biosewoom.
Seegene and SD Biosensor also received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for emergency use and have already exceeded last year's total sales in the first quarter, as large-scale orders have been pouring in from abroad.
Seegene has been exporting 3 million test kits a week and plans to expand the volume to 5 million starting next month.
Osang Healthcare, which has yet to receive local approval for emergency use, is currently on the FDA list of firms awaiting approval, as the U.S., which has been hit the hardest by COVID-19 with the most casualties, has been scavenging for test kits from abroad.
Solgent has received orders from 40 countries and several states in the U.S. including Colorado, New York, California and Nevada with the total orders exceeding 1 million COVID-19 test kits. Recently it has sent 100,000 kits to Colorado. Just in the first quarter of sales, Solgent has exceeded its total sales figures from last year.
Labgenomics also exported 500,000 test kits to Maryland.
On Jan. 27, only a week after the first confirmed patient in the country, the Korean government requested bio firms to develop the diagnostic kits.
Only a week later on Feb. 4, Kogene Biotech was the first to receive the drug safety ministry's approval for emergency use of its test kits, and it was followed shortly by Seegene.
The reputation of the Korean bio industry and the quality of their products have been recognized worldwide and industry watchers believe the test kit boom could lead to growth in other related sectors such as medical products and devices after COVID-19 eases down.
The Korean government also has high hopes for the bio industry's potential to develop breakthrough vaccines and medicines.
"Looking at our country's test kits being exported throughout the world, we believe if we focus our capacity we have the potential to develop vaccines and medications," said Park Neung-hoo, Ministry of Health and Welfare said.
Industry watchers say it is imperative to have synergy between the government and bio firms to better promote and support their products overseas as there are limitations for the firms to advance into the global market on their own.
(News from The Korea Times : http://koreatimes.co.kr/pages/article.asp?newsIdx=288534)