RM100mil pumped into BioValley


By YAP LIH HUEY

THREE biotechnology companies have committed more than RM100mil in investments to the BioValley project, said Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Law Hieng Ding.  

Of the three, one is locally owned, another by a Dutch company, while the third is a joint-venture between Malaysia and China.  

According to Law, the companies, which made their investment commitments early this year, are involved in the manufacture of animal feed and neutraceuticals (a combination of nutritional and pharmaceutical food as medicine).  

He said his ministry was currently talking with another three biotech companies with a view to bringing them to BioValley. Law declined, however, to give details. 

Located on a 200ha site south of Cyberjaya, the BioValley project is expected to be ready by 2006.  

Law said he hoped to attract 150 biotech companies to Malaysia and pull in US$10.5bil of investments in the next decade.  

“Biotech is a wide field. We are looking to working with Singapore, Thailand and other countries in the region to cross-fertilise each other,” Law said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday after officiating at the National Conference on Biotechnology & Life Sciences 2003.  

The two-day conference is titled Managing Risks and Assessing Opportunities: Biotechnology in a World of Uncertainties and attended by researchers from public and private institutions and the related business community.  

On venture capital (VC) funding, Law said his ministry was talking to local and foreign venture capitalists to facilitate private funding for biotech initiatives in the country.  

To date, there are three VC funds for biotechnology in the country: a RM1bil fund under Malaysian Technology Development Corp Sdn Bhd; a RM25mil fund under Malaysia Venture Capital Management, which is managed by Expedient Sdn Bhd; and the RM114mil fund under Malaysian Venture Capital Fund for biotechnology jointly owned by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Great Eastern Life Assurance (M) Bhd, PacificMas Group and TH Group Bhd.  

It will be managed by Spring Hill Management Sdn Bhd, which is owned by Dr Kim Tan, a Malaysian scientist who has biotech companies listed on the Singapore and London stock exchanges.  

Law said his ministry, together with International Trade and Industry Ministry and Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, was working on a new proposal on how to attract Malaysian scientists abroad back to the country. He expects this proposal to be ready for presentation to the Cabinet soon.  

The proposal will include at- tractive salaries, good facilities and infrastructural, educational and medical benefits for scientists to set up new start-ups or branch offices in Malaysia.  

“We basically have all these facilities but we need to improve and integrate them into one package to attract these people,” he said.  

Law also said his ministry was looking at facilitating faster and lower-cost patent registration for scientists. 

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