Region/Countries: Asia, South Korea Industry: Biosciences / Medical Devices, Other Date: May 2018

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Approximately 10 percent of South Korea's growing elderly population is living with dementia.

According to Statistic Korea, the elderly population in South Korea accounted for approximately 14 percent of the total population in 2017. As South Korea faces rapidly changing demographics, the number of people suffering from dementia is increasing. Therefore, the demand for advanced dementia medicines and research is creating opportunities for Wisconsin biohealth companies.

Aging is becoming a social challenge all over the world. The number of patients suffering from dementia is increasing rapidly, and dementia has burdened many people with huge financial costs and care demands. Therefore, in many countries, a top priority is coming up with solutions to ease this burden. South Korea’s government announced plans to invest roughly $1 billion for dementia research, care and infrastructure over the next 10 years.

According to South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare in Korea, the number of people with dementia stood at over 700,000 last year, accounting for 9.9 percent of the total elderly population. By 2050, the number of people with dementia is projected to be 2.3 million, with one in six elderly persons suffering from dementia. Many pharmaceutical companies have tried to find right medication to cure dementia, but given the resources invested with no cure yet found, the government plans to provide strategic support for dementia-related R&D. The South Korean government expects that this will lower the prevalence of dementia, reduce the cost of health care and improve quality of life for people living with dementia.

In South Korea, there are six pharmaceutical companies (Medipost, Medifron, CHA Biotech, IlDong Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd, Daehwa Pharmaceutical Co., and Dong-A ST) actively researching new drugs to cure and treat dementia. One pharmaceutical company, Medipost, has obtained a patent in the UK for its stem cell-based dementia treatment, and South Korean pharmaceutical companies are also actively working with international partners.

As dementia research investment increases, South Korea’s pharmaceutical companies also expected to gain momentum. As South Korea dementia research is expected to grow, Wisconsin dementia research and/or pharmaceutical companies with advanced technologies and experience could consider working with South Korean companies through partnerships, equity investment and/or joint R&D.