Friday, July 11, 2014

From the San Diego circuit

I HAD a great time at the recent BIO International Convention in San Diego as part of the BiotechCorp delegation, representing the media. I must say I was elated by the spirit shown by the Malaysian delegation from various agencies in embracing Bioeconomy initiatives. While I was skeptical about the biotechnology/bioeconomy initiatives nine years ago when the National Biotechnology Policy was launched, today I see the fruits of the policy, slowly ripening into maturity.

All Economic Corridors are in top gear and already has tangible results to show in terms of foreign investments and employment opportunities. See reports on page 2-3.

BiotechCorp must be commended for their tireless efforts in courting foreign companies and getting them to set up operations in Malaysia. What is more appealing is that these companies are spread well across the country and not centred in one state. This approach will support biotechnology development and urbanisation throughout the country and provide job opportunities to all Malaysians, not just urbanites. This will also reduce rural-to-urban migration.

The Malaysian delegation was treated with a visit to The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla and needless to mention the level of research at this institute. Fundamental research is the core activity here.

Here is my observation – while FDI is increasing with the entrance of foreign companies into our biotechnology space, commercial value of our local research is seriously lacking. Translational research is not our cup of tea yet. We are still looking for lower hanging fruits – I read about discovery of antioxidants, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, etc in our local herbs all the time. We are so obsessed with our natural resources and perhaps we think that is the only ingredient for biotech research.

 Maha talking to the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak in San Diego

As we started the ResearchDigest section in The Petri Dish, I am still waiting to report breakthrough research. We at The Petri Dish are hungry for research news from local institutes.

If only our research activities could be elevated to the next level, the country will be able to complement BiotechCorp’s initiatives in making Malaysia a hub not only for bioeconomy but also biotech research.