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Plan to produce home-grown medicine Nobel winner by 2030

An ambitious plan to produce home-grown medical scientists who could win the Nobel Award in Physiology or Medicine by 2030 was unveiled by the government Monday.

The plan, tentatively called “Nobel Project in Physiology or Medicine,” will support young medical scientists in their 20s or 30s for their own long-term research work, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said in its annual budget for health technology.

A total of 10 scientists will be selected to receive government subsidies of 100 million won ($90,285) every year for three years. For those who show higher performance, an additional 300 million won will be given annually in the next five years, the ministry said.

The ministry recently decided in a review committee meeting to invest 237 billion won to support R&D projects in health technology within the year. The budget, consisting of 163 billion won for ongoing projects and 73.2 billion won for new ones, increased 11.5 percent from last year.

“Health technology is one of the most burgeoning industries in the world, with steady annual growth of 7.2 percent predicted in the coming years. As business opportunities are expanding centering on the new markets such as China, it is important to gain an early edge,” said a ministry official.

According to the ministry, the market for health technology was estimated to be worth $4.7 trillion in 2008, while those of telecommunication and automobiles were $2 trillion and $1.6 trillion, respectively.

Almost half the budget, nearly 114 billion won, will be poured into relatively new and competitive areas such as innovative drugs, medical equipment and regenerative medicine.

Of them, 24.5 billion won will be given for clinical trials developing new drugs and proving their safety and effectiveness and 5 billion won to drug manufacturers each for new drugs and anti-cancer medicines.

The government will also support research into treatments for major diseases with high death rates and expensive medical costs. The key part of the support will go to translational research which is used to translate the findings in basic research more quickly and efficiently into medical practice.

The budget also included 21.7 billion won for building a social safety net for the underprivileged, with an emphasis on product development for senior citizens and disabled people.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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