SEOUL-- LG Chem Ltd., South Korea's top chemicals company, said Thursday that it will concentrate its research on developing new drugs for metabolic diseases and immuno-oncology treatment.

LG Chem also said it will speed up the development process for new drugs through its open innovation program, which is designed to team up with other pharmaceutical firms and researchers in developing new drugs.

"We will make our utmost effort to secure a global network for the foundation of future businesses," Son Jee-woong, head of LG Chem's Life Sciences Business Division, said Wednesday in a speech at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

A LG Chem official in Seoul said that LG Chem is pushing to find partners for development of new drugs for metabolic disorders and immuno-oncology treatment.

Metabolic diseases -- which disrupt the functioning of metabolism -- include diabetes and obesity. Immuno-oncology treatment is meant to use the body's immune system to help combat cancer.

In 2017, LG Chem merged with LG Life Sciences Ltd., a biotech unit of South Korean conglomerate LG Group, as part of its efforts to diversify its business portfolio beyond electric vehicle batteries, basic chemical materials and industrial chemicals.

In 2003, LG Life Sciences received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the antibacterial medicine Factive, which treats respiratory diseases. It was the first time that the FDA approved a South Korean drug.

LG Life Sciences developed the diabetes treatment Zemiglo in 2012.

Last week, LG Chem Vice Chairman and CEO Park Jin-soo said the company will spend more than 1 trillion won (US$937 million) on research and development this year. LG Chem's spending on R and D came to 780 billion won in 2016 and 1 trillion won in 2017.

Source: Yonhap News Agency