California keen on biotech ventures with Malaysia

  • Business
  • Thursday, 29 Jul 2004

THE state of California in the United States is looking to establish more working relationships with Malaysia in biotechnology, an academic said. 

Dr Donald Straney, the dean of science at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, said Malaysia had a wealth of natural resources which could be developed into downstream biotechnology products. 

“The future lies in having bridges in places like Malaysia, which offers vast natural resources and potential workforce,” he said at a seminar on biotechnology initiatives in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. 

Straney said Malaysia was spending a lot of money on biotechnology initiatives and that much could be learnt from California's experience. 

California has three biotechnology centres –in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego – providing biotechnology scope in pharmaceutical, instruments, medical devices and research. 

He said biotech ventures in California mostly started from research with grants provided by the state before moving on to commercialisation aided by venture capital funding. The third phase involves initial public offerings, through which initial investors could exit their investments. 

California had 40% of the 6,250 life sciences companies, 49% of all venture capital funding, and 20% of all US life sciences patents, Straney said. 

He said, however, the success rate from university research down to commercialisation was very small, at 4%. “This is the challenge to researchers in universities to really believe in what you do, so that others will be interested in writing a cheque for you,” he added. 

He said that even with such low success rates, the growth rates of biotechnology initiatives between 1991 and 2000 had had a tremendous net impact on California's economy.  

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