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Global Pharma Companies Looking for New Korean Drugs for Combination Therapy
A Series of ‘Love Calls’ from Overseas
Global Pharma Companies Looking for New Korean Drugs for Combination Therapy
  • By Choi Moon-hee
  • October 11, 2018, 10:58
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New drugs developed in South Korea receive much attention from global pharmaceutica companies.

Anti-cancer drugs developed in Korea are receiving love calls from global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

According to the pharmaceutical industry on October 9, overseas pharmaceutical companies are seeking cooperation with Korean companies to increase the effectiveness of their drugs by adding Korean drugs. This kind of combination therapy is beneficial to both domestic and foreign companies because it increases the effectiveness of the new drug over the individual drug administration. Korean “immuno-anticancer drugs” are especially popular. It is a drug that kills cancer cells by enhancing the self-healing ability of the patient.

The most recent case involves British company AstraZeneca, which recently started clinical trials for administration of immuno-anticancer drug, “Impinj” in combination with a new drug made in Korea, “Vactosertib.” Vactosertib is a drug developed by Medpacto, which is a subsidiary of the Korean biotech company Theragen Etex. The clinical trial is planned to be conducted on non-small cell lung cancer patients for two years.

Last month, Vactosertib was also selected as a drug for combination therapy by MSD, one of the three major U.S. pharmaceutical companies. MSD is planning to use the drug in clinical trials for gastric and colorectal cancer patients. If these trials turn out to be successful, the new Korean drug Vactosertib will be able to target the global market with the foreign credibility and network of the large British and American pharmaceutical companies.

MSD has shown interest in another Korean drug. It is an immune-anticancer drug called "Tanibirumab" developed by a medium-sized biopharmaceutical company Pharmabcine. MSD announced early this year that it will administer Tanibirumab with its own developed drug Keytruda to brain tumor and metastatic breast cancer patients in tentative doses.

Korean company SillaJen is also cooperating with a global company for development of combination therapy. The global pharmaceutical company BMS decided to use Pexa-Vec with its self-developed anti-cancer drug “Ipilimumab.” AstraZeneca also decided to use Pexa-Vec for the development of a next-generation colorectal cancer treatment. In July, SillaJen joined Regeneron, one of the top five U.S. biopharmaceutical companies, to start on domestic clinical trials for combination therapy for kidney cancer.

The reason that new drugs developed in Korea receive much attention from global companies is that the competitiveness of these drugs have been proved through various clinical trials. An industry official said, "Combination therapy has relatively low value added compared to monotherapy, but it can lead to stable sales by selling new drugs with the drugs already in market," adding, "Making breakthroughs in the development new drugs through combination therapy rather than monotherapy has become a new strategy for global biopharmaceutical companies."