KAPAL Conference

6th Annual KAPAL Conference Brings Maryland, South Korea Together

The distance between Maryland and South Korea will shorten next week when the Korean American Professional Association in Life Sciences (KAPAL) hosts its sixth annual KAPAL Conference in Gaithersburg.

Jihoon Park, a general director with KAPAL, and Youngmi Ji, a program director with KAPAL, said the primary goal of the two-day KAPAL Conference is to provide guidance and assistance for scientists and entrepreneurs who want to develop medical devices and pharmaceuticals for patients.

In 2019, there were more than 250 people and representatives from over 50 companies who attended the event. They came together from multiple disciplines in the life sciences, including healthcare, academia, public research institutions, and private industry. South Korean companies that will be on site this year include Samsung Biologics, ISU Abxis, Neoimmunetech, Psomagen, and others.

Conference attendees will be provided with a broad overview of the life science sectors in both Maryland and the broader United States, as well as within South Korea. The conference will lay the groundwork for potential collaboration and other business opportunities between companies, academics and organizations in both ecosystems.

The event will include special sessions that provide attendees with greater insights into the regulatory landscape in both the U.S. and Korea. Speakers will discuss the different perspectives in regulation expectations between the two different governing agencies.

Additional sessions will discuss potential funding mechanisms through the National Institutes of Health. The event will also include sessions with investment bankers and other financiers who will take a deep dive into market trends in the life sciences.

The startup landscape in South Korea will also be a topic of conversation during the two-day meeting. Ji pinpointed the highlight of “rare disease” for the first day of the conference, with day two focused on “support programs.”  

Park noted that many of the startup companies in South Korea are focused on rare diseases. Because treatments for rare diseases are in high demand across the globe, Park said the conference can provide opportunities for potential partnerships.

“There are U.S. companies looking for partners and in South Korea there are companies with innovative technologies who are looking for partners,” he said.

Not only will the program provide information to entrepreneurs who may want to do business in Korea, it will also serve as a platform for Korean entrepreneurs who are looking at the United States. Park said there will be representatives of companies from South Korea looking to enter the U.S. market and conduct clinical studies here. At the same time, there will be representatives from U.S. companies aiming to find customers in the South Korean market, he said.

“This creates an understanding and connectivity between the different markets,” Ji said.

Following the conference, attendees will develop unique perspectives on the Korean healthcare industry through keynote speakers and other presentations from leading Korean biopharmaceutical companies and biotechs. The event will also allow life sciences professionals to expand their professional network in the Korean-American life science community.

After operating in the virtual world for the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event will be in person, which is something Ji expressed significant excitement about. She said this year is about face-to-face experiences, which are expected to improve collaborations by allowing people to get to know each other.

“Being able to see each other’s faces in person is nice. Having this ability to be face-to-face is important,” she said. “Come, enjoy yourself and get to know each other better.”

Although the two-day event is focused on Korean-Americans, Park said the conference is open to anyone who wants to attend.

“Lastly, You know ‘BTS’? You Know ‘Bibimbab’? As K-POP and K-FOOD have become popular, now it’s ‘K-Biotech’! BTS is the group by ‘MANY’ boys. ‘Bibim(비빔)’ means ‘MIX’. This delicious bimimbab is from MIX of all ingredients with steamed rice. Please come and join the event.  Make your own delicious network (MIX)”, Ji said.

The 6th annual KAPAL Conference will be held Nov. 17-18 at the Gaithersburg Marriott Washington Center.