Fri, Oct 17, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Schwabe may open R&D center for herbal medicine

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

The world's largest manufacturer of plant-extract medicines, Germany-based Willmar Schwabe Group, is considering setting up a research and development (R&D) center in Taiwan to look into traditional herbal remedies, officials from the company and the government said yesterday.

"We are interested in doing research in Taiwan, as traditional plant medicine is strong here," said Heinz Stumpf, head of Schwabe's R&D department.

"The knowledge and tradition is here, and there are scientists who can cooperate with us," he said.

Founded in 1866 in Leipzig, Schwabe now employs 3,000 people worldwide and reported revenues of 420 million euros last year, 15.3 million of which was channeled into R&D. The company is best known for its gingko-biloba products.

As the standard of scientific research in Taiwan is high, Stumpf praised the nation as the company's first choice.

Indeed, Schwabe's Taiwanese partners urged the government to do its utmost to fight off competition from neighboring countries.

"Many countries in the region, such as Singapore and Korea, are asking Schwabe to set up an R&D center in their countries," said Su Zhi-hong (蘇志宏), president of Hock Sheng Trading Co (扶陞貿易).

Stumpf and Schwabe's president Klaus-Peter Schwabe arrived in Taipei on Tuesday at the invitation of the government which is keen to attract more research centers to the country in key industries.

"We are very happy to be welcoming the world's largest plant medicine group to Taiwan," said Song Liu (劉華嵩), the ministry's managing director of the Program Office of Herbal Medicine.

The ministry's five-year science and technology program for Chinese herbal medicine has US$5 billion to spend on establishing the nation as a center of excellence for biotechnology, Liu added.

The government has plenty of sweeteners to lure Schwabe.

"Taiwan has attractive incentives for companies like Schwabe wishing to set up research centers here," Liu said.

"The most attractive aspect of locating a research center here is that costs are a third of those in Europe and the US," he said.

The new center will have a lucrative market to tap. This year, the global market for plant and herbal medicine was US$23 billion, according to research firm PhytoPhram Consulting. That figure is expected to grow to US$35 billion by 2006.

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