Semiconductor developers are aggressively seeking to push into the bio industry. More and more semiconductor companies are declaring the bio and pharmaceutical businesses as their new growth engines and aggressively trying to merge and acquire relevant firms. Industry watchers expect that such trend will accelerate in the future as the convergence of bio technology (BT) and information technology (IT) has become a hot issue in the future healthcare industry.
According to industry sources on December 14, Nextchip, a fabless semiconductor company, acquired a 79 percent stake in biotech company Biobud on the 12th, tapping into the bio industry. Biobud developed a test kit for diagnosing cardiovascular disorders through a blood sample and entered the U.S. market. It is also making R&D investment to develop genetic recombination hemostasis pads and styptics for injection.
In order to strengthen their new business, semiconductor firms are putting so much work into recruiting biotechnology experts. Kodi-M, a semiconductor equipment manufacturer, recently declared to turn into a bio platform developer by combining the BT and IT, hired Joo Sang-un, former president of the Korea Drug Development Fund, as vice chairman of the bio division, and brought in nine more foreign experts to the research and development division, including Dr. Richard Sever of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The company also changed its corporate logo and English name by adding “M” abbreviated to “medicine.” Kodi-M said, “With the adoption of new technologies and the establishment of new companies, we aim to invest and develop three to five pipelines and transfer our technologies to global pharmaceutical firms.”
Semiconductor companies are making such movement to dominate the market of bio chips and bio sensors, which need to integrate with IT technology, in advance. For instance, bio chips integrate information about human cells, protein and DNA to a small substrate and use it in the research, new drug development and in vitro diagnosis sectors.
An official from the industry said, “The plans for bio chips and DNA chips came up decades ago but most of them are still remained at the research level and no commercial products that can be used by businesses have not come out yet. It is the sector that semiconductor firms, which have high accessibility to equipment and IT technologies and a lot of experiences, are confident to secure the competitiveness.”
However, some say that it will be difficult for companies in other industries, including semiconductor, to achieve results soon in the bio and pharmaceutical sector. This is because the sector is called “regulated industry” as it deals with human life and it has a high barrier to entry.