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Tsai touts local biomed sector at event opening

During the opening ceremony of the BIO Asia-Taiwan Exhibition yesterday in Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed the hope that advancements in Taiwan’s biotechnology industry would usher in major business opportunities from abroad, allowing the sector to reach NT$1 trillion (US$339.50 billion) in annual production.

Despite COVID-19, the annual biotech trade show attracted pharmaceutical and medical device companies from more than 500 nations, including the US, the UK, Australia, Switzerland and Malaysia.

The five-day exhibition is the first in-person international biotechnology trade show in Asia since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Tsai said that biotechnology is a crucial part of the “five plus two” innovative industries plan that she introduced during her first term, adding that she hopes the exhibition would be a platform for the nation to demonstrate innovativeness and accelerate the development of its biotech sector.

The nation would deregulate relevant laws to expedite the growth of the sector, she said.

The “five plus two” innovative industries plan refers to an initiative to develop an Asian equivalent of the US’ Silicon Valley, including biotech, green energy, industry 4.0, robotics, defense and aviation, as well as innovative agriculture and a circular economy.

Taiwan’s biomedical industry grew by 8.7 percent in annual revenue last year, a record high over the past few years, with the amount of capital invested reaching NT$55.1 billion, Tsai said, adding that digital medicine and precision medicine, two sectors that have shown great potential in recent years, are expected to grow significantly.

Cell therapy, regenerative medicine and genetic testing combined with big data analysis are also areas that have progressed a lot, while innovative medical devices, including nanomedical technology, are expected to receive more attention, she said.

New medicine development has also had breakthroughs, Tsai said, citing a licensing agreement signed in April by Taiwan’s Oneness Biotech Co Ltd and the Denmark-based Leo Pharma, a global leader in medical dermatology.

The agreement was signed to facilitate the development and introduction to the market of FB825, a drug candidate for novel atopic dermatitis and asthma, with an upfront payment to Oneness totaling US$530 million, the highest a Taiwanese company has ever received in such a deal.

Meanwhile, the National Biotechnology Research Park in collaboration with several multi-national pharmaceutical companies, accelerators and venture capital firms yesterday opened an accelerator hub for biomedical start-ups.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the hub, former vice president Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said that the new facilities provide one-stop services to cultivate biomedical start-ups and has the potential to become the biggest accelerator hub in the field of biomedicine in the Asia-Pacific region.

The occupancy rate of biomedical companies at the park is 60 percent and the number is expected to reach 80 percent by the end of the year, Chen said, adding that growth at such a rate would be “beyond my imagination.”

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