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by Jennifer A. Ng, Reporter
26-June-2007 BusinessMirror

The lack of cohesive rules on the biotech industry and the lack of government support, coupled with the weak enforcement of patent laws, tend to discourage both local and foreign investors in the biotech industry, specifically in the biopharma industry.

In the study, entitled “A Report on Biotechnology in the Philippines,” the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP) noted that most research and development institutes (RDIs) and biotech private companies that served as respondents were more involved in food processing and in agriculture than in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Probably, the perception of the respondents that the government is not fully implementing intellectual property (IP) laws may be one of the major factors hampering the flow of investments in the biopharma industry,” said Godfrey P. Ramon, BCP’s policy specialist and head of the team which undertook the study.

Of the 21 companies that took part in the study, more than half were involved in industrial- and agricultural-derived processing and developing products with agricultural applications. A very small percentage was into manufacturing medicine.

The study also noted that most of the research efforts of 69 RDIs that participated in the study were more into industrial and agricultural derived processing and other agricultural applications and are not geared toward product development.

BCP noted that the lack of efforts to develop products may be due to huge costs associated with it, as well as the perception, especially among companies, that the government could not enforce IP laws.

Ramon noted that developing one brand of medicine alone—from research and development to commercialization—could cost a minimum of $1 billion.

“Apart from this, companies especially multinationals are very conscious about patenting their products,” he said. The BCP study also found that biotech companies and RDIs believe that the government does not have a “cohesive master plan” for the biotech industry.

Respondents also feel that the government has not been shelling out enough money to support the industry, if only to ensure that the best and the brightest scientists, particularly those employed by public institutions, will not go abroad.

Ramon, for his part, said that while other Asian countries like India are already making significant headway into the global pharmaceutical industry, the Philippines could not even play catch-up.

“The Philippines has much to offer, especially those who want to go into the country’s pharmaceutical industry. For one, there are plant species which have medical applications that are indigenous to us,” he said.

This, Ramon said, should enable the Philippines to corner a chunk of the global market for nutraceuticals or food supplements which experts estimate at $30 billion.

BCP conducted the study to assess the status, trends, and needs of companies and research institutions that use or develop biotechnologies. The coalition hopes that the study would aid policymakers in developing measures and statistics of biotech-related economic activities.

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