I have been keenly interested in Malaysia for a few years. Recently, I have served on the BIO-IAP (International Advisory Panel) chaired by Malaysia’s Prime Minister, and have been engaged in discussion about Malaysia’s “Bioeconomy” initiative. The notion of “Bioeconomy,” to which the U.S. among many countries also subscribes, appraises the scientific, technical and business landscape as the bio-driven sciences rapidly converge. The tools of biology, used in medicine and health care, are as important in agriculture and for industrial uses (“agbiotech” and “industrial biotechnology”).
When a country possesses natural advantages pertaining to the “feedstock” that supplies these sectors, it makes sense for it to create cross-cutting processes, incentives, programs and approaches in order to build and sustain competitive advantage.
Malaysia, which does represent in important ways the “gene pool of Asia” (a term I take credit for popularizing), also has abundant natural resources (botanicals, sources of therapies and drugs) and manufacturing capabilities (synthesis, formulation etc.). It is in the process of sorting out how Malaysia brings these pieces together to create a “Bioeconomy” that will propel it beyond the ranks of middle-income countries in which it finds itself. (Singapore achieved a similar status as a logistical and manufacturing hub without any natural resources).
Countries blessed with natural resources nevertheless face a daunting task. How do they break down the barriers between regulatory authorities, ministries and institutions which have developed, over a long period of time, each devoted to a single area of interest – medicine, agriculture and food, industrial biotechnology? Nothing can fail quite as quickly as an effort to make people collaborate when they have long been committed to their own turf.
It starts with messaging, and it takes leadership, coordination, and adaptation. Larta, which has a Bioeconomy Accelerator Program in Malaysia for 20 Malaysian companies, most of which are startups, is motivated and interested in pioneering this work in partnership with Malaysia Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp).
In the following article in The Star, a Malaysian newspaper, you can read about Larta’s “soft landing” which we organized for a select group of our Malaysian companies at BIO, the world’s largest and most influential biotech meeting, in Pennsylvania in mid June. Read the article here.