Thu, Jan 17, 2008 - Page 12 News List

Merck Group in Taiwan picks Taiwan for Asia tech site

TOUGH COMPETITION Taiwan beat out rivals such as Japan and China in the bid to house the Merck facility, which is expected to help boost the biotechnology sector

By Felix Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Merck Ltd. and the government-funded Development Center for Biotechnology (DCB) jointly announced yesterday a cooperation agreement to establish an Asia Technology Training Center (ATTC) in Taiwan.

Merck will invest approximately NT$10 million (US$308,000) in the training center, bringing its own systems and plans to have two to three lab technicians in addition to a technical manager, who will be responsible for coordinating clients throughout Asia, said William Chen (陳雄慶), managing director of Merck Taiwan.

"The initial investment is small, but the potential return on capital is exponential," he said.

Since DCB will be providing a majority of the talent and support, Merck will have a smaller staff, Chen said.

"The key is our technical manager, who will have to act as coordinator for clients across Asia and rely on our expertise in scale production of protein-based drugs and consulting services," Chen said.

"The ATTC is not merely a training center; it is where clients can come and use our expertise and perhaps inquire about technology transfer," he said.

German-based Merck established its Taiwan branch in 1989 and distributes laboratory equipment and raw ingredients for research in sciences. The company has two training centers in the world -- one in Germany and another in the US. ATTC will be the third facility and the only one in Asia.

Under the agreement, Merck will set up ATTC on the DCB campus in Sijhih City (汐止), Taipei County. DCB will provide the space, facilities, consultants and supplies, while Merck will share its cooperation model with customers and partner DCB in its global R&D efforts.

The competition to house this facility was high, with Japan, China, India and South Korea all vying for the opportunity to enhance their biotechnology sector, DCB officials said.

"DCB is quite pleased to have won Merck's approval. The joint proposal drawn up by Merck Taiwan and DCB was done within a week and beat out proposals from other Asian countries -- some of which had been working on the proposals for a year," said Huang Bor-fuei (黃博輝), director of DCB's industry promotion and marketing division.

DCB and Merck Taiwan were able to edge out the competition as their proposal went beyond the simple concept of a "training center" and incorporated more business integration opportunities, Huang said.

Taiwan has an advantage in this sector in Asia because of its clear rules on intellectual property rights protection, DCB's well-established bioprocessing team and R&D facilities, and a current good manufacturing practice, or CGMP, pilot plant to support large-scale production, he said.

DCB chairman Wu Shuh-min (吳樹民) said that Merck's choice of Taiwan for the ATTC project "clearly indicates Taiwan's competitiveness in the regional biotechnology sector after the passing of a new law regulating this industry last year."

Wu was referring to the legislature's approval of the Biotech and New Pharmaceutical Development Act (生技新藥產業發展條例) in June.

"It also shows that Merck recognizes the efforts DCB has made in 2007 on the international stage, striking cooperation deals with Boehringer Ingelheim of Germany, Crucell of Netherlands and MediVas of the United States," Wu said

Looking ahead, DCB, and by corollary, Taiwan's biotechnology industry, will benefit from more international exposure and recognition, and smaller biotech firms will gain access to world-class consulting and services in protein-based drug production, Huang said.

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