Need for boost in biotechnology

  • Letters
  • Friday, 15 Sep 2017

An inconspicuous feature of the Malaysian landscape, chances are you’ve either walked, driven past a Petai belalang tree.Known by its scientific name, Leucaena leucocephala, some feel this roadside shrub holds great promise in the future production of biofuels on an industrial scale.

IT was only in April 2005 that Malaysia declared her intention to become a serious player in biotechnology with the launch of the National Biotechnology Policy (NBP). Based on a census conducted that year, the Malaysian Government chose agro-biotechnology as the major thrust in the repertoire of Malaysian biotech-nology industry and research.

However, Malaysian biotechnology after 12 years is, in my opinion, predominantly engaged in relatively moderate sectors and is still not making enough impact on the industry as a whole. Also, I must say, the fulcrum of biotechnology in Malaysia is still largely dependent on foreign investments and expertise.

To make a sizeable impact on the global biotechnology scenario, Malaysia must adopt an overall approach which should be clearly defined in the next 10 years.

I wish to quote a former professor at Universiti Technology Malaysia, Mohd Nazlee Kamal, who wrote, “Biotechnology is merely a tool for progress designed to benefit mankind.” During my literature search for an article, I gathered many interesting facts from newspapers and other publications such as Asia Pacific Biotech News.

Tropical mushrooms, orchids, and medicinal plants from Sabah and Sarawak, for example, can be cultivated with ease even in one’s backyard with minimal capital.

Commercialisation of TYPHIDOT, a sophisticated diagnostic kit for detecting typhoid fever, lipase enzyme produced from protein crystallography, assessing the growth of microbes in space, and propagation of palm industries nationwide are some of the key biotechnological achievements for Malaysia.

I would suggest that besides universities and research institutes, members of the public should also be made aware of the vast economic potential of the biotechnological boom for them. Fresh graduates of biotechnology and recent alumni from universities as well as the industrial sector should come up with new concepts and ideas too.

The take-home message is that Malaysia and Malaysian biotechnology as a whole can do wonders just by using the country’s vast natural resources, including the petai belalang (pic) which holds great promise as a biofuel.


Department of Biotechnology

Faculty of Science

Lincoln University College

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