Growth of Biotechnology in Asia

A recent report by the accounting firm, Ernst & Young, finds an increase in the amount of investment by governments in the Asia-Pacific region in biotechnology. Besides investment incentives and tax breaks, governments have begun to nurture the fledgling industry with increased government spending. Governments in Singapore, Malaysia, and India have actively pursued strategies to attract major international companies to position their research and development in their respective countries.

The Singaporean government has plans underway to build a biomedical facility spanning a sizeable seven blocks. The science hub, known as the Biopolis, will be “a dedicated science park providing space for lab-based R&D activities tailored to Biomedical Sciences companies.” Construction of the first building in the facility will be completed by 2003. Through the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Biomedical Research Council, the government will allocate funding from a combined budget of US$1.4 billion to support and stimulate research.

Malaysia also has its own version of Singapore’s Biopolis. Technology Park Malaysia’s Bio-city will focus on food and feed production, biodiversity prospecting, alternative medicine, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, and genetic engineering. The park will span 750 acres with 12 buildings. The Malaysian government is also recruiting the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) through a partnership program designed as a collaborative effort with a primary goal of building a foundation for a sustainable biotechnology industry in Malaysia.

India’s biotechnology and domestic pharmaceutical industry have been growing exponentially in recent years. In 1997, the market was worth US$3 billion and is expected to grow to US$5 billion by 2005. Currently, most Indian companies are not involved in basic R&D or drug discovery; however, the government is hoping to encourage firms to enter into this arena within the near future.