First World Bio Summit is held in Seoul
The first World Bio Summit brought 300 heads of international organizations and CEOs of biopharmaceutical companies to Seoul from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly hosted the inaugural World Bio Summit at the Grand Walkerhill Seoul in Gwangjin District, eastern Seoul under the theme “The Future of Vaccine and Bio-health.”
Participants reviewed key innovations and lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic and vowed to accelerate research and development to strengthen global health security.
“Companies in Korea have strong manufacturing capabilities in the bio sector, and that is why I believe Korea was able to host the first World Bio Summit,” Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant Director-General for Drug Access, told the JoongAng Ilbo.
The two-day summit brought together figures from Korea and abroad, including WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa, along with health ministers and representatives of bio and vaccine manufacturing corporations.
On the second day of the summit, participants discussed pandemic response strategies and a global vision for pandemic preparedness.
“Public-private partnerships and collaborations between governments through innovative biotechnologies centered on WHO and CEPI [Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] played a significant role in managing the pandemic response in terms of its speed and effectiveness,” said Cho Kyoo-hong, Korea’s Minister of Health and Welfare, on Wednesday.
“We take the lesson on the importance of international cooperation to heart […] which was evident in our Covid-19 response,” Cho said.
The Seoul Declaration pledging global cooperation on pandemic responses followed.
“We proclaim here in Seoul that the World Bio Summit will continue to serve as a forum to discuss ways to promote global cooperation, […] develop health crisis response tools and ensure equitable access to strengthen the world’s pandemic preparedness for the future,” the Korean health minister said.
The first plenary session brought together health ministers from mRNA technology transfer recipient countries, CEOs of vaccine companies in low- and middle-income countries, and representatives of international organizations to talk about governments’ efforts to overcome Covid-19.
Park Min-soo, Korean vice minister of health and welfare, described Korea’s key Covid-19 measures, including the 3T (Test, Trace and Treat) strategy, drive-thru screening centers, residential treatment centers and the vaccine pass system that were adopted in the early pandemic stage.
“This encouraged people to voluntarily be part of the disease prevention and control measures,” Park said, “and ultimately, we were able to minimize the shock without a lockdown.”
Park also introduced the Global Training Hub for Biomanufacturing, which is aimed at providing training in vaccine and biologics manufacturing to support biomanufacturing capacity building in low- and middle-income countries.
According to Park, Korea was designated as the biomanufacturing training hub by the WHO in February. The courses teach mRNA vaccine manufacturing skills and basic knowledge of vaccine development and production.
“We will incorporate various programs covering the entire cycle of vaccine manufacturing — through development, production and licensing,” he said.
“We hope the training hub can support our neighbor countries to develop and strengthen their biomanufacturing capacity,” Park added. “I believe our efforts can contribute to reduce vaccine inequality and better preparing for the next pandemic.”
Ali Mrabet, health minister of Tunisia, spoke about sustainable and equitable approaches to vaccines. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the world recognized inequalities in access to vaccines and the need to give vaccine manufacturing capability to low- and middle-income countries. Thus the WHO launched the mRNA vaccine technology hub in South Africa, working with a network of technology recipients in low- and middle-income countries including Tunisia.
“Africa produces less than one percent of its needs in vaccines […] and there is a need to develop local manufacturing capacity for vaccines, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” Mrabet said. “We are proud to be part of the initiative by approving access to quality medical production, local production that can help achieve comprehensive health coverage and then address health challenges related to sustainable development.”
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]