Fri, Mar 01, 2002 - Page 17 News List

BioBusiness meet selects the top guns

LIFE SCIENCE Criteria for attending the regional conference in Taipei is based on a company's presence in global markets

By Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

BioBusiness Asia, a conference put on by regional governments and venture capital groups to promote collaboration between biotechnology firms from around the region, opened in Taipei yesterday.

Among the 24 pan-Asian companies invited to show off their research and business plans -- including companies from Australia, India, Japan and Singapore -- Taiwan fielded six, and pundits said they are among the best in the country.

"Initially, it was a long list. We had to reduce it during the screening process," said Johnsee Lee (李鐘熙), vice director of the Biomedical Engineering Center at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (工研院), a leading public-funded research group in Taiwan. He said around eight or nine companies from each country submitted their information to the conference coordinators and many were rejected.

In Taiwan, the criteria for gaining the chance to show off and possibly impress a major venture-capital firm was international contact. Lee said technology and international involvement were top criteria for the six firms selected from Taiwan to participate.

"Biotechnology, if you just do it locally, will not be very robust," he said. "We looked at Taiwanese companies in terms of leadership and technology, and most importantly in their international collaboration and investment."

Representing the best of Taiwan's industry were AbGenomics Co, Advanced Gene Technology Co (先進基因), AsiaGen Co (亞洲基因科技), ScinoPharm Taiwan Ltd (台灣神隆), TaiGen Biotech Inc (太景生物科技) and Vita Genomics Inc (賽亞基因科技).

Lee said the selection process was stringent because he hopes to make BioBusiness Asia an annual event, and ensuring that quality companies show up is the best way to do that.

Local representative

* AbGenomics

* Advanced Gene Technology

* AsiaGen

* ScinoPharm Taiwan

* TaiGen Biotech

* Vita Genomics

"My ambition is to make Taiwan a window to Asia," he said.

International investors may not come to Taiwan just to see local firms, but a conference drawing the best from throughout Asia is worth their time, he said, "to discover the hidden dragons, the hidden biotech opportunities."

One pundit at the event pointed out that helping pay for the event also played a part in the selection of companies, as the event was paid for by venture capital firms touting their own portfolio of top biotech firms, as well as individual companies who won the right to present after sponsoring a portion of it.

Still, the same critic agreed that some of the Taiwanese firms, AbGenomics in particular, boasted interesting technology.

The company is currently seeking patents for two inventions that help in genomic and proteomic research, as well as for at least one gene the company has discovered, as well as the utility of the gene.

Companies patenting genes must describe exactly the function they are patenting, as their intellectual property is only protected under the uses they describe.

ScinoPharm, which produces ingredients for medicines, said it had moved a huge step forward by winning the US' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stamp of approval at its site last October, according to Hardy Chan (詹維康), executive vice president at ScinoPharm.

With FDA approval, ScinoPharm can produce ingredients that will ultimately end up on store shelves in the US. The company will have to win approval again for every new ingredient it seeks to sell to US firms.

Three of the six Taiwanese companies made presentations at Biobusiness Asia yesterday. The other three will give presentations today, the final day of the conference.

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