The National Research Foundation (NRF) is represented in South Korea by the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB). Dr. Choong-Min Ryu is the GloPID-R representative. He is assisted by Researcher Jieun Lee.
One of the main missions of the National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Korea is to contribute to the advancement of knowledge and improve quality of life by encouraging and supporting creative research. The Foundation contributes to setting the direction of the nation’s basic and applied research across all academic disciplines, to lead change in forward-looking research ecosystems. It also acts as a platform to promote interaction among universities, research institutes and researchers. To facilitate this specific objective, the NRF provides a grant to the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB), which is a national institute. Since it was founded in 1985, KRIBB has been at the forefront of South Korea’s life science community, pioneering innovation and advances in basic research, national research infrastructure and bio-industry. The role of the Infectious Disease Research Center at KRIBB is to provide solutions in the fields of infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and diagnostic technologies. In addition, the center investigates acute viral diseases such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza viruses and MERS, which are associated with high morbidity, mortality and pose a threat to public health.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korean companies and researchers, in both public and private sectors, have developed many relevant solutions ranging from rapid diagnosis to vaccines. I believe that further significant achievements will come from advances in knowledge and technology, as well as improved research infrastructure. As a GloPID-R member and Head of the Infectious Disease Research Center, I am particularly interested in the establishment of a GloPID-R hub in the Asia-Pacific region. This area of the globe presents very specific conditions in terms of climate, geography, demographics and culture, making it very easy for novel pathogens to spread to the human population. These factors, combined with the high-population density across many countries, are conducive to the development of local epidemics. Another significant worry is that pathogens can rapidly spread via the main flight routes from the major airports such as Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo. As we have seen during the current COVID-19 crisis, this can result in a global, infectious disease pandemic. I hope that by working together under the umbrella of GloPID-R coordination, all member countries in Asia, including many LMICs, will be able to cooperate effectively and share critical information.”
Dr. Choong-Min Ryu
Head of the Infectious Disease Research Center, KRIBB
During the COVID-19 crisis, in early 2020, South Korea achieved major progress in the development of diagnostic tools, increasing exports of Korean COVID-19 diagnostic test kits, introducing the first ‘drive-thru’ for diagnostic sample collection in the world, achieving high positions on the FDA ranking of the ‘Corona 19 molecular diagnostic kit’ and becoming No 1 contributor to the K-Quarantine strategy.
In 2021, the government continues to provide funding to establish vaccine platform technologies for new, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. This includes a global approach to support the private bio-health sector and secure vaccines, government investment of $1.54 billion in research and development for new drugs, and investment of around $8.7 billion in 40 major biopharmaceutical companies by 2023.
Working alongside GloPID-R Scientific and Advocacy Director, Hans-Eckhardt Hagen, members from Japan, Australia, Singapore, and South Korea have developed a concept paper, exploring the possibility of a future GloPID-R Asia-Pacific hub. One of the main objectives of this hub is to prevent and manage outbreaks of emerging and re-remerging infectious diseases in Asia-Pacific LMICs.
Dr. Ryu emphasizes the extraordinary geographical and histologic situation in Asia when it comes to infectious diseases. In addition, climate change is a major challenge in the region. “Thanks to effective vaccines and prevention efforts, we are now close to the COVID-19 finishing line,” he says. “This is, therefore, a critical point in time for preparedness for the next epidemic and pandemic in Asia. The first step is to expand GloPID-R membership across more than 40 Asian LMICs in addition to Japan and South Korea. To date, South Korea has benefited from tremendous assistance from other countries, especially HICs. We hope now to repay that investment working with LMICs in Asia under the umbrella of GloPID-R.”
“In South Korea, our system is a little different from other GloPID-R members. In addition to managing a research laboratory, I am also the PI for the GloPID-R project. Our interests are in antimicrobial resistance and developing a new drug and its target. Balancing these two roles is not always easy, but I am very ably assisted by my co-worker and assistant, Jieun Lee. Her excellent management and organization skills help me to coordinate our responsibilities,” adds Dr. Ryu.
“Contributing ideas and efforts to help LMICs in Asia is extremely important for us. I really enjoy participating in international meetings, even though they usually take place in the late evening in South Korea. I hope that our efforts will provide a small but potentially significant step to managing infectious diseases around the Asia-Pacific region.”
The GloPID-R Secretariat is a project which receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874667.