Posts tagged biotech

Biotech entrepreneurship flourishing in Malaysia


Support programs are developing a strong industry but access to qualified staff remains an issue, says Geneflux Director and biotechnology entrepreneur Dr. Prashanth Bagali

by Jon Southurst

It’s been over four years since the Malaysian government formed the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp), an agency tasked with turning Malaysia’s infant biotechnology sector into a global competitor. BiotechCorp is achieving this with a comprehensive array of programs providing everything from education to entrepreneurial support, investment, training and marketing. Large companies and niche players alike would get the kind of assistance they needed to expand internationally. Geneflux™ Biosciences is one company that took its concept global with a focus on local issues under BiotechCorp’s guidance. Dr. Prashanth Bagali, its Director and co-founder, spoke to us about his company’s experience and the challenge for Malaysia in the 21st century’s preeminent scientific sphere.

The term ‘biotechnology’ refers to the science of life itself. It includes research and techniques involving living organisms from microorganisms to plants and animals, to serve specific applications in improving human health and agriculture. At its cutting edge is genome mapping, cell fusion, gene detection, gene transfer and embryo manipulation. It’s a prestigious, high-value industry with rewards in intellectual property, international sales and reputation among the world’s scientists.

The national interest in biotechnology started as early as the 5th Malaysian plan (1986-1990) but was given due recognition and emphasis starting from the 8th Malaysian Plan (2001-2005).  Before 2007, healthcare biotechnology in Malaysia was an embryo itself. The existing industry was driven by traders, equipment suppliers and reagent vendors, with less than 100 local patents filed of any international importance. That was around the time BiotechCorp was just beginning, and it was into this scene that entrepreneurs Dr. Bagali and partner Ir.Balagaru Naidu arrived to set up a business.

Biotech entrepreneurs and Geneflux founders, Dr. Prashanth Bagali & Balaguru Naidu

Biotech entrepreneurs and Geneflux founders, Dr. Prashanth Bagali & Balaguru Naidu

Geneflux Biosciences registered in 2007 with a focus on the research and development of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based testing kits, a faster way to detect and analyze small quantities (or volume) of DNA or RNA without the need for full cloning. Their kits would be available at affordable prices to developing countries in Asia and Africa, vital in combating diseases affecting those regions. (more…)

New deals for Malaysia from BIO International convention


Malaysia’s BIO International delegation has announced four new deals, including two new investments into Iskandar Malaysia’s Bio-XCell technology park and two partnerships between BioNexus-status companies (see below) and foreign firms.

The two partnerships were: a Technology Licensing Agreement in the bio-refinery sector between Lestari Pacific Sdn Bhd and UK-based Arter Biofuel Products Ltd., and a memorandum of collaboration between Pristine Oil (M) Sdn Bhd and Norway’s Bio Protein AS. The latter deal will establish a new RM608 million (US$20 million) plant in Malaysia to produce a bio-protein to replace fishmeal in the aquaculture industry, according to Business Times.

Pharmaceutical company Agila Specialties (formerly Strides Specialties) Sdn Bhd Americas also announced it would set up a 3.2 hectare facility to produce biopharmaceuticals and sterile injectables at Bio-XCell park for the global market, costing up to $60 million. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s largest industrial gases supplier MOX-Linde also signed a memorandum of collaboration to establish a gas distribution facility at the park. The company plans to extend its facility to include an electronics specialty gases warehouse and separation plant should demand increase.

BioNexus is a government sponsored program awarding special status to biotech companies meeting specified criteria, allowing them to access tax incentives, support programs and a ‘Bill of Guarantees’. Its purpose is to promote international partnerships and commercialization of Malaysian-developed biotechnology. Only 3% of companies in the program have achieved ‘maturity’, determined by workforce and revenue figures, but the plan is to increase this to 5-7% by the end of its first phase in 2015. 188 companies have signed on to date.

sources & article: Business Times, BioTechCorp

Big events in 2011 to show Malaysia’s dedication to biotech


Some big events this year are helping Malaysia build its reputation as a global hub for biotechnology research and development, providing the chance to show off Malaysia’s progress so far and assisting collaboration and networking opportunities with some of the world’s most major players.

Several Malaysian representatives attended the 2011 Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) International Convention, which ends today in Washington DC. The world’s largest conference of its kind, it brought together 1,700 attendees from world’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector and related policymakers. Malaysia’s delegation included the Malaysian Genomic Institute, Agro Biotechnology Institute, Malaysia Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical Institute, Kulim HiTech Park and Invest Melaka.

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was even given the honor of launching the convention with BIO President and CEO, James C. Greenwood, and Maryland State Governor, Martin O’Malley. The Deputy PM will meet with US based companies to highlight Malaysia’s latest biotech incentives and hopefully encourage them to invest in the local sector.

The other big event is the 8th annual BioMalaysia 2011 conference, from 21-23 November at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. The region’s largest biotech event features a conference and exhibition, as well as the 2011 ‘BioInno Awards‘ to recognize gains made by Malaysians in the biotech sector who will then go on to represent the country in international awards competitions.

Malaysia’s event also includes the sixth annual 2011 Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy on 29 November, the first time the summit has been held outside the United States.

sources: MIDA, various conferences

15 new initiatives announced for Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme


Malaysia yesterday announced 15 initiatives, including nine new projects and seven recaps, as part of its Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). According to Prime Minister Najib Razak, the ETP is already bearing fruit despite running for only a short time.

Yesterday’s announcement was the sixth regular update of the ETP, and sees the programme reach 50% (or 65) of its 131 ‘Entry Point Projects’ launched. The 15 new initiatives promise to bring in RM2.77 billion (US$913.8 million) in investment, add RM66.31 billion ($21.87 billion) to Malaysia’s Gross National Income and create 36,595 new jobs by the target year of 2020.

The initiatives (with their national key economic areas) are: (more…)

Malaysian biotech sector continues to grow as plan enters Phase 2


Interesting things continue to happen in Malaysia’s science and technology sector. The country’s biotech industry has brought in RM5.4 billion (US$1.79 billion) worth of investments and created 54,776 jobs since the National Biotech Policy (NBP) was initiated in 2005. With NBP’s second five-year phase about to begin, Malaysian Biotechnology Corp (BiotechCorp) says the sector will draw another RM9 billion ($2.99 billion) in investments and RM50 billion ($16.62 billion) in revenue. A third phase will begin in 2015.

BiotechCorp said it was happy with the progress so far, despite the totals being under Phase I targets of RM6 billion in investment and RM20 billion in revenue. CEO Iskandar Mizal Mahmood said the ratio of private to public investments was “extremely favorable”, trends were in its favor, and it had built a platform for further growth. BiotechCorp had also developed a new model focused on commercialization and capacity-building, and had lined up four foreign direct investments (FDIs) this year totaling RM4 billion ($1.33 billion).

At the close of Phase I this year, Malaysia’s biotech sector contributed 2.2% of GDP. The NBP aims to increase that to at least 4% by the end of Phase II.

source & articles: Business Times


Three new tenants help secure funding for Malaysian biotech park


Big things continue to happen for the Iskandar Malaysia economic zone near Singapore. Business Times reports Bio-XCell Sdn Bhd says it’s about to announce a new international investor for the zone’s biotechnology park, with another two lined up to join in the next couple of years.

Bio-XCell, which is at the center of the park’s development and its main promoter, is a joint venture between Malaysia’s Biotechnology Corp Sdn Bhd and UEM Land Holdings Bhd. The three prospective tenants helped secure extra funding from Maybank for the project and have even been named: India’s Biocon Ltd, France’s Metabolic Explorer and US-based Glycos Biotechnologies Inc.

Maybank’s new contribution is worth RM250 million (US$82.45 million) as a 12-year Islamic term facility, enabling the development’s first phase to be completed. The first phase’s total RM950 million ($314.45 million) cost will also be funded by foreign direct investment (FDI) and sale of shares to the public. About RM500 million worth of FDI has already been raised.

Iskandar Malaysia’s biotechnology park is a 29-hectare, 1.125 million sq ft space dedicated to making biotechnology a bigger contributor to Malaysia’s GDP, as well as harnessing the economic advantages of its location in the Johor Bahru growth corridor. The plan is to grow the park in three stages over six years. Bio-XCell’s definition of ‘biotechnology’ includes “biopharmaceutical, industrial technology and green chemical” industries not related to agriculture.

source & articles: Business Times


Malaysia ‘on DuPont’s radar’ for oil/gas, biotech


Science giant DuPont is planning to acquire and integrate Danish enzyme producer Danisco AS, a company with a sizable Penang-based subsidiary developing and producing food additives, sweeteners and sugars. The move will increase DuPont’s reach in Malaysia, and cement the company’s position as a leading global biotechnology player. Worldwide, the acquisition was worth some US$6.3 billion.

DuPont already has a presence in Malaysia, operating there since 1973 and currently employing 150 people. Its primary activities include agricultural crop protection products, polymers, chemicals, fluoroproducts, fibers, refinishes, imaging, solid materials, advance composites and packaging and industrial polymers.

Carl Lukach, President of DuPont Asia-Pacific, said his company is keen to become more involved in the oil and gas sector, as well as infrastructure related projects. Hsing Ho, the company’s sales and marketing director for ASEAN, said Malaysia is “on DuPont’s radar”, and added they would like to help others with solutions to enhance resource recoveries, such as the possibility of deeper ocean exploration.

source & article: BusinessTimes

Biocon joins influx of Indian biotech companies to Malaysia


Indian biotechnology companies are continuing to establish operations in Malaysia, drawn by its biotech and research friendly initiatives. Biocon is about to join them, investing US$161 million in a strategic partnership. Others who have already begun operations in Malaysia include Avesthagen, Geneflux and Stempeutics Research.

Malaysia’s biotechnology policies done much to draw in foreign companies and make the country an international hub for R&D and production. There is a 10-year tax holiday, fewer restrictions on investment and access to other markets in ASEAN through free trade agreements. Even seemingly minor details like uninterrupted power supply, decent roads and cold logistics facilities can appeal to companies in countries like India, where there is plenty of innovation but often not enough appropriate or biotech-specific infrastructure to support it. Even though biotech in India is growing at around 30%, the capital-intensive industry is not attracting the kind of overseas interest seen in Malaysia.

Overseeing all this is the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp), which says Biocon’s investment and development of high-end  biopharmaceutical products will help implement Phase II of the National Biotechnology Policy: the ‘science to business’ phase.

source & article: The Economic Times

Stem cell breakthrough keeps Singapore biotech at forefront


A team of scientists in Singapore have this week published an important breakthrough in human stem cell research, their findings crucial in understanding how stem cells work and how they might be used to treat debilitating illnesses like Parkinson’s Disease and spinal injuries.

Their research, which identifies the most important genes in human embryonic stem cells, is the first ever genome-wide study of human stems cells on such a large scale. They investigated the entire range of 21,000 human genes and found one in particular, PRDM14, that is instrumental in enabling stem cells to become any other kind of cell and retain that characteristic indefinitely. More importantly, they found that PRDM14 plays a part in human embryonic stem cells but not in those of mice, stressing the need for more research on human cells.

Singapore is at the forefront of human embryonic stem cell research, which has faced hurdles and government funding restrictions over the years in Western countries due to pressure from religious groups. By acting as a biotech ‘haven’ with freedoms not always available elsewhere, Singapore has been able to attract some of the world’s major talent to its labs.

The research team was led by the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), two biomedical research institutes of Singapore’s Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

Malaysia ramps up commercialization of Biotech R&D


Malaysia’s Biotech sector is entering the second phase of the National Biotech Policy, aiming for global commercialization of Malaysia’s R&D for agriculture, healthcare and industrial biotechnology. As part of the plan, Malaysian Biotech Corporation (BiotechCorp) has begun a Commercialization Assistance Program (CAP) joint project with the Larta Institute in the United States to bring the technology to market.

An important component in commercialization will be the Bio XCell center in the Iskandar Special Economic Zone, Southern Johor state. The center will be built in three phases over six years.

BiotechCorp also awards special ‘Bionexus‘ designation to companies meeting its criteria, allowing them to access tax incentives, support programs and a special Bill of Guarantees. 173 companies have achieved this status to date, generating RM1.12 billion in total revenue and growing 46% in the first half of 2010 alone. Bionexus-status companies have attracted investment from around the world, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom and United States.

source & article: Business Times

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