The South Korean government will greatly ease regulations on embryonic stem cell research and gene therapy product development that the biotech industry has longed for.
At the second meeting to break down regulations chaired by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon at the Advanced Institute of Convergence Technology in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on November 30, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said, “We will expand the allowable range of embryonic stem cell and genetic scissors research to the same level as advanced countries.”
Under the current bioethics laws, various restrictions are imposed on research and development of embryonic stem cells, including human embryo, and somatic cell-based gene therapies. Currently, the research on embryonic stem cells is only allowed for 20 types of rare and incurable diseases, while that on gene therapies is allowed for severe diseases such as genetic disorder, cancer and AIDS. The industry has said there are excessive regulations on the research areas and strongly asked to introduce “negative regulation” system, which permits research first if it is for treatment and impose regulations later.
The Private-Public Bioethics Consultative Body, which manages bioethics laws, will come up with a specific revised bill. The group was established early this year to improve systems and review ethics as new life science technologies, including gene editing and xeno-transplantation, appeared.
However, the body is also participated in by ethics, law and religious experts who are against deregulations. Accordingly, there can be conflicts to draw up the final improvement plan.