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LG Household & Health Care to enter DNA testing business

Biotech startup Macrogen plans to use DNA to develop tailor-made cosmetics and other consumer products based on genetic information.

SEOUL -- LG Household & Health Care, a major South Korean maker of cosmetics and personal care products, is expanding into the growing market for genetic testing products and services.

The company plans to set up a joint venture with a local biotechnology startup by year-end to accumulate expertise in DNA testing. The goal is to launch health management services using personal genetic data.

In South Korea, regulations on genetic testing have been eased, creating new opportunities to offer health care and cosmetic services for consumers based on genetic information.

LG Household & Health Care also envisions the development of cosmetic products based on DNA analyses in the future. 

The cosmetics powerhouse is teaming up with Macrogen, a Seoul-based biotech company, to create a 50-50 joint venture for genetic testing dubbed GenStory and capitalized at 6 billion won ($5.17 million).

The new company will initially focus on research and development operations based on Macrogen's expertise in the field.

The ultimate match

In June, under the revised law concerning bioethics and safety, South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare made it legal for businesses to conduct genetic tests for 12 health parameters, including blood sugar, blood pressure, skin aging, cholesterol and hair loss, without any request from a medical institution.

Genetic information about key health indicators like blood sugar and blood pressure helps individuals align their health risk management and cosmetic efforts to their personal needs.

LG Household & Health Care plans to gain expertise in DNA testing through the joint venture to provide health management services for consumers based on genetic data. The company also hopes to cater to corporate clients interested in employee health management.

In Japan, cosmetics maker Fancl is already offering such services.

LG Household & Health Care will also consider providing genetic tests and analyses in overseas markets where its brand is becoming popular. The company's long-term goal is to capitalize on newly acquired expertise to develop skin care products that are tailor-made to meet the personal needs of consumers.

Macrogen is a biotech spinoff from research done at Seoul National University. Listed on the Kosdaq market for startups, the company posted 79.5 billion won in group sales for 2015, up 46% from the previous year. Its operating profit grew 60% to 4.1 billion won.

Macrogen CEO Jeong Hyeon-yong sees the joint venture with LG Household & Health Care as a springboard for his company's expansion in the growing market. South Korea is lagging other countries in genetic information services, he said. 

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