Thailand’s recent participation in BIO 2007 in Boston showcased this growing change. Based on years of work, Thailand has emerged as a growing Asian base for biotechnology. It is one of the world’s leaders in terms of agricultural exports. It is a country with strong biodiversity, with well-trained human resources and is now the unmatched leader in medical tourism (In 2006, Thailand attracted 1.4 million medical tourists. Some hospitals in Thailand serve more medical tourists in a year than the entire nation of Singapore, another medical hub competing in this area). Additionally, Thailand has a well-deserved reputation as a cost effective and dependable manufacturing and services base where ease of doing business, protection of intellectual property, and political stability are all part of daily live.
This policy is more in line with Thailand’s culture and history. Further, it has shown steady success in building on its strength and of quietly working within the government and with the Thai people to foster increased understanding of the need for building knowledge-intensive industries like biotech. Despite an interim government that has achieved limited results in some areas, the current government’s success in building science in Thailand is bearing noticeable results. Two years ago, Thailand’s biotech industry was mostly limited to agricultural biotech and contained about 50 companies. Today the number has grown to nearly 100 and in addition to agricultural biotech also includes growing numbers of food biotech, diagnostic, drug discovery & human health and even human genetic research companies.
Signaling that further development is targeted, the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) announced at BIO 2007 that it has introduced new incentives to support the biotechnology industry by providing a maximized incentive package comprising an 8-year corporate income tax exemption. Moreover, if the applicants’ facilities are located in the Science Parks, an additional 50% corporate income tax reduction for 5 years will be granted. The incentives are granted to R&D and manufacturing using biotechnology in the seed, plant and animal improvement industries, biopharmaceutical agents, diagnostic kits and reagents, biomolecules and bioactive compounds.
This support to business has been matched by the Ministry of Science, which has introduced new legislation providing a major boost in government financed S&T spending. The Minister announced at BIO that the Thai government is increasing the S&T budget three fold in the next three years. Additionally, the government has announced the expansion of the new state-of-the-art Science Park by adding 127,000 square meters of space in four interconnected towers, which are set for completion by 2009. It should be noted that this Science Park, which is by far the country’s largest, is not alone. Science Parks are in operation in the Northeastern part of the country at Nakorn Rajasima where there are 4 technology business incubators, the Eastern Seaboard in Chonburi province and the Southern Science Park in Songkla where there are 2 additional business incubators.
Additionally at BIO, Minister Yongyuth spoke to delegates on Thailand’s biotechnology vision during a press conference and at the Ministerial Briefing. Later, he met with BIO President James Greenwood and senior BIO officials to review biotech issues in Thailand and to further discuss new initiatives plus issues of mutual concern.
But Thailand’s visit to Boston extended far beyond the BIO meeting. It involved meeting with Genzyme and a well-attended tour of Genzyme’s 200,000 square foot Allston production facility, which completed construction in 1995-96 and would currently cost about $500 million to construct. It included a Thailand Science Park organized “Thai Biotechnology Business Development Delegation” led by Dr. Janekrishna Kanatharana, Director of the Thai Science Park, and including representatives from Thai biotech companies like Betagro, Better Pharma Co., Biotechnology Asia Co., Ltd, Hemotrans Co. Ltd., MED Laboratories Co., Ltd, NanoAsia, Ltd. Silom Medical Co., Ltd and Stem Cells for Life plus other members of Thailand’s growing private biotech sector.
Be assured, based on Thailand’s performance to-date, Thailand will be gaining added stature in the years ahead and is far from resting on its laurels.
For more information on Thailand's Biotechnology Delvelopment, click here
About the Author:
Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis an Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford's Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www. business-in-asia.com) Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations. Mr. Runckel is one of only two non-Ambassadors to receive this award in the 200-year history of the U.S.diplomatic service.
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