The South Korean health ministry announced last month that research into stem cells and regenerative medicine will receive a funding boost of 33 billion won (US$29 million) in 2012, four times that given in 2011. Overall, six different ministries will invest 100 billion won in stem-cell research this year.
Until last year, public investment in stem cells in South Korea was relatively low and targeted mainly at basic research. But the country's Ministry of Health and Welfare is now expanding its support for clinical research on stem cells, with the money being used to link basic research to intermediate or clinical studies. The aim is to commercialize the research at an early stage.
"From the current research atmosphere and infrastructure, the government has judged that stem-cell studies are now maturing," says Hyung Min Chung, president of Seoul-based biotechnology firm Cha Bio and Diostech and an adviser on the budget plan. He adds that his company is particularly pleased that government investment decisions on developing stem-cell therapies will be made more quickly.