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Malaysia's biotech industry hits total revenue of US$1.1b

October 16, 2013
- File Photo
- File Photo

PETALING JAYA: President Barack Obama may not have come a-calling at the recent Fourth Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, but there have been huge collaborations between Malaysian and US companies in bio-technology over the past eight years.

Malaysian Biotechnology Corp (BiotechCorp), which has billed itself as an agency to “feed, heal and fuel the world” since 2005, has been unrelenting in its push for a successful bio-economy in Malaysia.

Bio-economy is the sustainable production and conversion of biomass for a range of food, health, fibre and industrial products and energy to create economic growth, with its evolution facilitated by an increased commercialisation of biotechnology research.

BiotechCorp chief executive officer Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal cited the QB3-Malaysia Programme, which is a collaboration between the Malaysian government and the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) to develop the biotech ecosystem in Malaysia, as an example.

“This is particularly so in the area of drug discovery to address medical needs and the development of natural product-based therapeutics,” he said in an email interview.

“Malaysian bio-entrepreneurs would have direct access to international capital and partnerships, and would gain a foothold to enter the US market in a very capital-efficient manner.”

To date, the United States remains in pole position in the international biotechnology market, where it contributes 70 per cent in revenue to the global industry. It is also home to the largest global companies, especially in the bio-medical sector.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2013-2014 ranks the United States at No. 5 while Malaysia is placed at No. 24 in terms of the most competitive countries in the world.

“Based on the index, Malaysia ranks second in Asia Pacific in terms of its ability to provide a conducive environment for companies to undertake innovation activities,” Nazlee said.

“However, the biotechnology market in Asia Pacific is outgrowing the United States and Europe at 10.88 per cent,” he said.

He said Malaysia, as one of the most competitive biotechnology hubs in the region, had adopted early critical steps in coordinating and harnessing bio-economy’s potential via the implementation of the Bio-economy Transformation Programme (BTP), which is the driving force of the National Biotechnology Policy (NBP) as well as the platform to boost commercialisation opportunities in biotechnology.

As for the achievements, he cited that the combined total revenue of BioNexus status companies was nearly RM3.5bil so far. BioNexus status is a recognition awarded by the Malaysian government to qualified companies that participate in and undertake value-added biotechnology activities in Malaysia, and includes fiscal incentives, grants and other guarantees to assist growth.

The award is given via BiotechCorp, an agency under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry responsible for executing the objectives of the NBP. At present, there are 225 BioNexus status companies.

“Malaysia has made great strides in making up for lost time,” Nazlee said.

Bio-economy, he said, would be a “sustainable economy” for Malaysia, as it covered all industries and economic sectors that produce, manage and utilise biological resources such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, wellness, chemicals and renewable energy.

“As a bio-economy-centric country, we are blessed with abundant natural resources to be exploited for higher-value products. Bio-economy is the game-changer for the nation, but alongside this driver correlates the need to have access to global innovation and capital along the entire value chain.”

Nazlee noted that government funding and support has been increasing. For example, he said the Government had announced almost 85 million ringgit ($26.8 million) for the BTP fund.

“The announcement was made at the seventh meeting of the Biotechnology International Advisory Panel 2013 in San Francisco last month,” he said.

He pointed out that BiotechCorp had established links with the US biotech industry over the years. “Malaysia has secured major investments by CJ Cheil Jedang, Arkema, Gevo, MetEX, GlycosBio and Verdezyne. The combined investments from these large companies are about five billion ringgit ($1.6 billion).”

– By arrangement with the ANN/The Star –