Posts tagged science
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.
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…)
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
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’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
The National University of Singapore Faculty of Science will hold a number of workshops for entrepreneurs in late April.
Guest speaker at the events will be Dr. Gunther Festel of Festel Capital, an investment firm specializing in environmental, health, energy, materials and nutrition technologies. Topics will cover the importance of entrepreneurs and start-ups in innovation, an introduction to start-ups and practical advice on getting things going.
article & source: SG Entrepreneurs