New strategies required to boost Vietnam’s biotechnology

Although Vietnam biotechnology is always considered a potential in ASEAN region, but the present application of biotechnological research into reality encounter many difficulties due to the lack of support from companies, schools, institutes and the barriers from the legal procedures.

Mono-PCR kit (WSSV), a biotechnological product from the Biotechnology Center of HCMC, is used in real life to detect the white spot syndrome virus on sugpo prawn (Photo: hcmbiotech.com.vn)

Looking back at the developing process from 2006 to 2009, Dr. Le Hoai Quoc, Deputy Director of HCMC Department of Science and Technology, said the biotechnology research in Vietnam has reached the moderately good standard, but applying findings and technology to production, diagnosis and treatment in Vietnam was not as good as that in Singapore or Thailand.

Dr. Ho Huynh Thuy Duong, HCMC University of Science, explained that the companies working with biotechnology were mainly originated from offices or research centers in the universities, which tightly paid attention to academy but loosely connected to finance and marketing. Biotechnological products also encountered many problems with regulation, legality or safety guarantee before used. These led to the difficulties in applying research to reality.

According to the government’s decision, biotechnological producing processes are only allowed when the companies receive the safety certificates from different ministries depend on their functions such as Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

According to Lai Hoang Mai, Director of Science and Technology Department of DOMESCO Medical Import Export Joint-Stock Corporation, it was regretted that the domestic researches on medicine or biotechnology in general could be compared with overseas research but still could not be put into production because they were not supported by research centers, institutes, schools or government agencies.

New strategies in demand
In the 2009 National Biotechnology Conference in Southern Region held in HCMC last year, Dr. Le Hoai Quoc also admitted the regulations enforced by related offices were still strict and they were obstacles to biotechnology development. He suggested that the delegates should think of solutions to the problems which turned to the strategy of biotechnology development.

Quoc added that HCMC with many advantages of human and material resources should take the lead in impulsing the development of regional biotechnology. We should first focus on making group A products such as vaccine, antibiotics.

Group B products as recombinant proteins should be thought over before investing on, while group C products as materials of antibiotics or recombinant proteins should be left for future research.

To bring the researches into real life, HCMC needs to build a research center which can connect with the manufacturers, operators and advertisers and support research groups in experiments so that they can sell the successful technology or continue with production stages.

At the conference, the strategy of biotechnology development from HCMC received lots of support. Thuy Duong; however, showed that the problems were from management offices because they have not put forth any standard and detail licensing process for biotechnological products. Whatever strategies HCMC used, it was still not easy to bring researches to reality due to the lengthy wait for the license. 

It is apparent that if no intensive conference is held for the leaders of related ministries, scientists and representatives of institutes, schools, companies to discuss on the solutions to the existing problems, Vietnam biotechnology cannot developed and is still simply considered as a potential no more no less.

By Kien Giang and Tien Dat – Translated by Huu Duy

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