Collaboration urged for biotech development in Greater China

Diana Lin,The China Post

Ever since mainland China has begun opening up to the outside world, all eyes from the biotech industry have been on its huge market potential and human resource. But, the mainland with a population of 1.2 billion people may encounter several problems with making a smooth transition into the biotech world.

There still lacks a strong system to protect the rights of intellectual property, and it may need a certain period of time to implement relevant regulations, said Shawn Leung, managing director of Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology (HKIB), at the Masster Forum yesterday.

For now, as Leung described, Hong Kong is a bridge between the East and the West, but its limited market and human resources can only give so much, and the mainland must jointly develop its licenses and capital with Hong Kong and Taiwan for its market to mature. Recently, Chinese medicine has been a major part of many biotech companies’ programs. It is a growing field that is attracting more and more biotech attention. With its origin and traditional knowledge based in China, much of Western technology will be transferred to the mainland in order to pursue this strain of biotechnology, contributing personnel and human resources. Improvements to Chinese medicine (CM) facilities in the mainland need to be made in order to assure consumers of CM products of quality and effectiveness.

Hong Kong has seen a large growth in its IT sector, and along with Taiwan, it is one of the biotech centers in the Far East, granting biotech companies there easy access to China, Singapore, Korea, Japan, and other major Asian nations. The HKIB provides Hong Kong with information and technology from the forefront of biotech. It is a non-profit organization that works in conjunction with numerous worldwide biotech institutes and organizations for technology transfers and research and development.

The HKIB was established in 1988, and due to its non-profit nature, it finances itself through IBSOMED Biosciences Limited. IBSOMED is completely owned by HKIB and operates biotech projects, Chinese medicine projects, plants and engineering designs. The Chinese drug market encouraged the Hong Kong government to give the HKIB a grant for the establishment of the Process Development Facility for Chinese Medicine. According to their Web site, the Facility’s two major focuses are to develop extraction and concentration technologies for single herb and combination herbal formulae and to develop new dosage formulation technologies for Chinese medicinal products. Leung has been managing director of the Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology since 2000 and holds a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Oxford in England.