Taiwan, No Longer a Life-Sciences Island Unto Itself

Taking a cue from its electronics industry, Taiwan is seeking to put its biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries on the map. An interactive map shows pharmaceutical activity in Taiwan.
May 02, 2009
Volume 33, Issue 5

Although dwarfed in size, both geographically and from a pharmaceutical-market perspective compared with its Asian neighbors of China and India, Taiwan is making a concerted effort to build its life-sciences industry. The government is fostering the country's biotechnology sector through public and private financing, promoting innovator-drug research, and attempting to bring its intellectual property and drug-regulatory practices in better alignment with global standards.

Targeting biotechnology

In March 2009, the Taiwanese government launched the "Biotechnology Takeoff Package," which is designed to develop the country's life-sciences industry, according to the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA). The plan focuses on four major areas:

  • Strengthening the industrial value chain and preclinical development in the commercialization process
  • Establishing a biotechnology venture-capital fund
  • Promoting an integrated incubation mechanism
  • Creating the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) to bring the regulatory practices of Taiwan's medical-device and pharmaceutical industries up to international standards.

To foster preclinical development and other aspects of the pharmaceutical value chain, the government said it will strengthen the ability of research institutions such as the Development Center for Biotechnology and the Industrial Technology Research Institution to engage in drug translational research and the development of medical devices. The government plans to establish a national biotech incubation center, the Supra Incubator Center (SIC). SIC is being developed in tandem with the creation of Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park in Hsinchu, Taiwan Province, which will focus on medical devices, and the National Biotechnology Science Park in NanKang in Taipei County, which will focus on biopharmaceuticals. Other biotechnology-based science parks in Taiwan are Agricultural Biotechnology Park (Pingtung County), Taiwan Orchid Plantation (Tainan County), Chiaya Herbs Biotechnology Park (Chiayi County), and Marine Biotechnology Park (Yilan County). An interactive map details the locations of these parks and other locations for pharmaceutical and biotechnology activity in Taiwan.

On the investment front, the biotechnology venture-capital fund will be jointly formed using private and public funds. The Taiwanese government plans to contribute 40% and private investors 60%. NT$10 billion ($294 million) will be used to start the fund. The government hopes to double the country's annual production value for biotechnology within the next four years.

This effort follows the adoption of tax and financial incentives by the Taiwanese government to encourage research and development (R&D), training, education, and collaboration between industry and academia in biotechnology, according to TAITRA. The measures also allow researchers in state-run research institutes to take an equity position of more than 10% in a newly established biotechnology company.

Several organizations promote the country's life-sciences industry, including the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industries Program in Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Taiwan Pharmaceutical Development Association, and the Taiwan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, which facilitates collaboration between China and Taiwan. Another group, the International Research-Based Pharmaceutical Association (IRPMA), established in 1992, consists of 43 research-based pharmaceutical manufacturers from Europe, Japan, and the United States with a presence in Taiwan. IRPMA consists of major pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca (London), Abbott (Abbott Park, IL), Boehringer Ingelheim (Ingelheim, Germany), Bristol-Myers Squibb (New York), Eli Lilly (Indianapolis), GlaxoSmithKline (London), Merck (Whitehouse Station, NJ), Novartis (Basel, Switzerland), Pfizer (New York), sanofi-aventis (Paris), and Wyeth (Madison, NJ).

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