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NEWS ADMIN

Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani

DATE

06/10/2004

NEWS PROVIDER

Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani

NEWS SOURCE

Bernama

CATEGORY

HEADLINE

Biotech Framework To Be Completed By Year-end
WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is ready to push forward itsbiotechnology industry with a series of collaborations and joint-ventureswith international biotechnology companies before the end of the year,Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis,said here Monday.

In an interview with Bernama, he said that a Biotechnology Framework wasdue to be completed by the end of the year, and initial talks were beingheld with several leading biotech companies and ivy league universities inthe US to move in the direction of joint-ventures, technology sharing, aswell as research and development.

Malaysia had succeeded in creating an information and communicationstechnology (ICT) industry in just seven years, which has become aprofitable contributor to the country's economy.

Over the last two years, 200,000 jobs were created and the industry earnedUS$2.3 billion (US$1 = RM3.8) from ICT alone, and the industry haspotential to expand further. "Our next target is to do the same for thebiotech industry," he said.

The biotech industry suffered along with the information technologyindustries when dot.com companies went bust in the early 2000's, however,the industry was recovering and projected to bounce back over the nextfive years, he said.

The minister has had a series of meetings in San Francisco, Los Angeles,Boston and Washington to get a clear idea of the direction Malaysia couldtake to be ahead of the game in this competitive industry.

MOSTI (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation) had engaged Burilland Co., a Life Science Merchant Banker, in San Francisco, to assist informulating a "bio-strategic plan of action" to move the industry forward.

"The company is an active broker of smart partnerships between bigpharmaceuticals and small, innovative biotechnology firms,," the ministersaid.

Exploratory talks were also held with IBM-Life Science (Worldwide Group)on bio-informatics (using computer for biotechnology); and with NovartisPharmaceuticals, a Swiss-based company which is interested to exploreprojects involving the creation of new drugs.

Research programmes in biotechnology are already underway with MIT since1999 to build the technological foundation for establishing abiotechindustry in Malaysia, he said.

Two projects were implemented involving medicinal plants "Tongkat Ali" and"Pegaga," while palm oil has potential for conversion to biodegradableplastics.

MIT Tests have shown that "Tongkat Ali", widely believed in Malaysia tohelp men with erectile dysfunction problems, does contain an "activeingredient," and researchers are moving to conduct clinical tests to testthe plant's efficacy.

These projects have produced 15 intellectual property rights with two ofthem having potential for commercialisation, he said.

Talks were held with Harvard University to implement a joint researchproject in Avian Flu and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Plans are already underway to create research labs in Malaysia which wouldtrigger the creation of spin-off companies within a one-mile radius ofthese labs - as in MIT and MIT spin-off companies which have been createdin Boston, Massachusetts, Jamaludin pointed out.

Three Interim labs have been created at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia(UKM), Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, (MARDI),and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and they will be the foundation forthe creation of the National Institute of Genomics and Molecular Biology(Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia), National Institute forAgro-Biotechnology; and National Institute for PharmaceuticalBiotechnology.

-- BERNAMA