Domestic biotech industry has potential, needs work: seminar

Bureaucracy and a lack of cooperation between researchers, institutes and the business community have inhibited Vietnam’s biological technology development, experts said at a recent seminar in Ho Chi Minh City.

A test kit used to detect disease-causing viruses in shrimp, produced by the Biotechnology Center of Ho Chi Minh City (Photo: SGGP)

Speaking at the October 23-24 event entitled “National Biotech in the South 2009,” Deputy Director of the HCM City Department of Science and Technology Dr. Le Hoai Quoc said Vietnamese biotech research in the field of agriculture and pharmaceuticals is impressive compared to other regional countries.

However, it continues to lag behind places like Singapore and Thailand, ranking midway amongst biotech-producing countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the international Biotechnology Atlas.

Vietnam turns research into production at an average level, said Dr. Quoc, while its application of gene technology in medical diagnosis and treatment remains sluggish.

Dr. Ho Huynh Thuy Duong from the University of Ho Chi Minh City said biotech enterprises are usually universities which are poor at marketing and frequently lack funding.

Moreover, entrepreneurs often become bogged down in red tape when applying for safety certification for a biotech product.

Domesco Medical Import-Export Joint Stock Corporation Director Lai Hoang Mai, said it was regrettable that biotech products and medical equipment had to be imported when Vietnam could be producing its own products with the same quality as foreign-made ones.

Ms. Mai said that a lack of cooperation between research institutes, universities and pharmaceutical companies, combined with little support from related agencies, have slowed Vietnam’s biotech production.

Dr. Quoc said that Vietnam’s current stringent regulations on biotech products were designed to ensure product safety; but that it also inhibited progression of the industry.

He suggested prioritizing investment in the production of vaccines, antibiotics, and pharmaceuticals, and said other hi-tech projects should be delayed until a later date.

In addition, with its many research institutes and leading scientists, HCM City should establish a center where researchers and business enterprises can work together, Dr. Quoc said.

Firms should provide financial support to researcher groups, he added, and if the research is successful, the businesses could either sell their patents or begin producing products.

Only when ministries, researchers, institutes, educational facilities and firms work together to remove barriers and implement clear policies, will Vietnam begin increasing its share in the biotech market, said Dr. Quoc.

A two-day seminar entitled “National Biotech in the South 2009” was held October 23-24 in Ho Chi Minh City by the Biotechnology Center of HCMC, the HCMC Department of Science and Technology, and Vietnam National University - HCMC.
It aimed to analyze scientific development in the country from 2005-2009, promote technological achievements in production, and propose development strategies in the sector until 2020.
Around 380 representatives from 75 institutes, universities and pharmaceutical companies from the central province of Quang Tri to the southern province of Ca Mau attended the seminar and presented 180 research works. 

By KIen Giang, Tien Dat - Translated by Van Huyen

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