Wed, Dec 22, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Biotech sector gets European news exposure

NEW MARKET The BBC plans to broadcast stories on Taiwan's biotech industry next month, and officials hope this will help raise the segment's profile

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's fledgling biotech sector now has a chance of making itself known to the distant European market -- through a broadcast by the British Broad-casting Corp (BBC), according to a biotech marketing company.

A series of three-minute films featuring the nation's biotech industry and some Taiwanese pioneers in the sector were first broadcast in Europe in mid-December, Taipei-based BiotechEast Co (東方生技) said yesterday.

Additional screenings will take place in mid-January on the BBC World channel's evening broadcast, which reaches 74 million households across 48 European countries.

"Europe as a region is often overlooked in Taiwan," Biotech-East president David Silver said at a press conference.

Silver said the publicity can help Taiwan garner more attention from the region, which has a population of over 370 million and is home to some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical and biotech companies, helping the sector reach the business executives and investors.

Clients of BiotechEast, which promotes Taiwan's biotech and pharmaceutical industries, include government agencies. Funding for the promotion scheme comes from both the government and the private sector, but Silver declined to reveal the amount.

Nevertheless, Taiwan should be more aggressive in publicizing its growing biotech industry to compete with other Asian countries like Singapore that are actively promoting their own biotech sectors, he said.

The government announced in 2002 that it would promote the biotech industry for the next 10 years. Annual revenues in the industry rose 13 percent to NT$125.6 billion last year from NT$110.9 billion in 2002, according to figures provided by the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industries Program Office (BPIPO) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Aside from the new drug development segment, Taiwan is well-positioned to develop herbal medicines, amid growing global awareness over using natural health remedies, a government official said yesterday at the same press conference.

"Taiwan is ready and capable of becoming a global hub for research and development [R&D] as well as clinical trials of Chinese herbal medicines," given its highest density of academics in the sector worldwide, and 13 clinical trial centers for Chinese herbal medicine, said Lin I-hsin (林宜信), chairman of the Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy at the Department of Health.

Revenues from Chinese herbal medicine totaled around NT$40 billion last year, according to the committee's figures.

"Taiwan has the potential to be the world's largest supplier of herbal medicine in the future," Lin said, citing that Taiwan ranks in the top-three, along with Japan and Germany, for R&D, manufacturing and quality control of herbal medicines, in compliance with international Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards.

The GMP policy, implemented about 25 years ago, requires all businesses to meet GMP standards by March 1 next year, and will bring the number of qualified Chinese herbal medicine manufacturers to 120, from the current 86, according to the committee that implemented the policy.

The committee hopes that the nation's Chinese herbal medicine sector will reach annual revenues of NT$200 billion (US$6.2 billion) by 2008, taking around 5 percent of the production value of traditional and replacement medicines worldwide, Lin said.

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