The South Korean government is planning to minimize its regulations on gene therapy and organ transplantation. Under the circumstances, research and commercialization of various types of biotechnology, such as CRISPR gene scissors, are expected to be accelerated.
Gene scissors are used to cut and correct certain target genes without touching the others. With this cutting-edge biotech, cancers, AIDS and various genetic diseases can be treated fundamentally. According to industry sources, the size of the global gene scissors market is estimated to increase from US$1.845 billion to US$3.514 billion between 2014 and 2019.
At present, the CRISPR gene scissors are the most advanced form of gene scissors and only South Korea and the United States have the original technology. However, actual application of the technology in South Korea is showing little progress these days due to regulations. According to the Bioethics and Safety Act of South Korea, gene scissors can be inserted into the human body only when the insertion is to treat diseases such as cancers and AIDS and no other option is available. In practice, the two requirements are hardly satisfied at the same time, and thus the use of the technology in South Korea has been significantly limited. Meanwhile, China, the U.S. and European countries are conducting more and more clinical treatment by using gene scissors.
Once the regulations are minimized, however, South Korean companies can conduct gene therapy research without limitation on the types of diseases. In addition, medicine development for delivering genetic material-introduced cells into the human body is expected to pick up speed. SillaJen and ViroMed are two of the South Korean companies currently working on such medicines.
Regulations related to organ transplantation are minimized as well so that any organ can be transplanted once its medical necessity is proven and the government’s role is limited to post-examination of appropriateness. At present, organs transplantable in South Korea are limited to kidneys, pancreas, bone marrows, eyeballs, hearts, lungs, livers and intestines. Besides, only the kidney, bone marrow and liver and intestines can be transplanted when it comes to the organs of a living human body.