Sat, Apr 22, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Biotech industry to be the future star

OPPORTUNITY An industry expert said the trend for outsourcing would increase business for local firms and boost the sector to the heights of the electronics industry

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

By aggressively tapping into the new trend for outsourcing in the healthcare industry, local firms will help drive biotechnology to be the nation's next star industry, following on from the electronics sector, an industry expert said yesterday.

"More and more multinational biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies are now outsourcing their tasks, and Taiwanese pharmaceutical firms stand to gain from such a tendency," said David Silver, president of BiotechEast Co (東方生技), at a luncheon organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.

Founded in 2001, BiotechEast is a Taipei-based consultancy firm offering research and business facilitation services in the Greater China region.

According to Silver, niche areas such as the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients or custom protein drugs may be where local companies can excel.

So far, progress has been relatively slow, as neighboring countries such as South Korea, Singapore and China appeared to have leapt ahead in recent years, he said.

For instance, Singapore's Biopolis biomedical science park has fast become a true international facility, attracting scientists from around the world.

The latest biotechnology-focused park initiated by the Taiwanese government is Nankang's Biotech Plaza, a research hub set up in 2003 and located within Nankang Software Park.

Taiwan still has its competitive edge, Silver said.

"Taiwan has solid foundations that will pave the way for a successful future in biotechnology, which would encourage the international input, collaboration and deals that are vital to success," Silver said.

These advantages include talented scientists, an creative research environment and researchers, as well as the availability of resources such as unique bioinformatics data, said Silver, who has written over 350 articles on life sciences.

In November, Taiwan requested a compulsory license to produce Tamiflu, as the drug's patent holder, Roche Holding AG, was reluctant to give the country permission to make the drug used in the treatment of bird flu.

This showed the world's pharmaceutical community that Taiwan's National Health Research Institute, which produces Tamiflu, has talented scientists, Silver said.

However, Taiwan's insistence in doing so -- despite the objections of Roche -- has affected the government's efforts to prevent intellectual property theft.

"Respect for intellectual property rights is essential for attracting international pharmaceutical or biotech collaboration partners," he said, suggesting local authorities take cautious steps in promoting the biotechnology industry.

On a positive note, as a number of local companies have established strong relationships with international drug giants, ongoing successful partnerships will take the industry to greater heights.

These domestic firms include Microlife Corp (百略醫學), Sinphar Pharmaceutical Co (杏輝) and Standard Chemical & Pharmaceutical Co (生達), Silver said.

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