Asia calls for united approach to commerce


Efforts to promote venture businesses by forming closer ties between industry and academia are gathering momentum in Asia, most recently with the September introduction of a new legal framework to encourage technology transfer in Japan (Nature 401, 3, 1999). However, efforts to commercialize biotechnology vary widely across the continent, and even the most active countries like Singapore and South Korea cannot compete with the US or Europe. In an effort to remedy this, a consortium has been proposed with the aim of uniting all regions, pooling resources, and promoting the development of biotechnology across Asia. This effort to persuade industry and regional governments to develop biotechnology is 20 years behind the West, but is expected to benefit from Europe’s precedent. Japan’s new technology transfer bill is based on the 20-year-old US Bayh–Dole legislation, which allows industrial partners in collaborative R&D projects to retain title to inventions made from government-funded research. Because companies in Japan were previously denied rights to patents resulting from government-funded research, and researchers from national universities were prohibited from taking part in commercial activities, true links between industry and academia have been rare in Japan . Although many expect a significant boost in bioentrepreneurship in Japan, particularly with the government’s recent support for venture businesses (Nature Biotechnology 17, 320, 1999), Takeshi Onoda, former director of Mitsubishi Chemicals (Tokyo) and a member of Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Tokyo), predicts that it will take at least 10 years for industry–academia partnerships to run smoothly. “The new legislation is a very important step for stimulating collaboration between different sectors, but university researchers have been living in the ivory tower for too long, and it will take some time to break their conservative attitudes and turn to entrepreneurship.” Problems commercializing biotechnology are not peculiar to Japan. “Developed countries in Asia have the capital, but what they seem to lack are self-confidence, experimental spirit, and a driving force for success,” says Sunyoug Kim, associate professor from the Institute for Molecular Biology and Genetics of Seoul National University (Seoul), “They need to take a plunge to make things work.” Addressing the situation, Asian researchers are calling for the unification of regional efforts in industry–academia collaboration to explore new research and business opportunities in the region. The Asia-Pacific International Molecular Biology Network (IMBN; Singapore) is an organization launched in 1997 to bring together life scientists from 14 different countries in the AsiaPacific region to promote biotechnology and biomedical research. At its international meeting, held at the end of July in Singapore, the organization emphasized the importance of building stronger links among industry, academia, and the government, and proposed the creation of a consortium of academic institutions and companies to help identify common scientific and commercial interests emerging from Asia and the Pacific Rim. “We hope to provide a common forum for facilitating the development of joint collaborations and consortia of researchers and companies from different countries,” says Gurinder Shahi, executive director of IMBN. According to Shahi, probable areas of common interest include gene therapy,

DOI: 10.1038/13636

Cite this paper

@article{Saegusa1999AsiaCF, title={Asia calls for united approach to commerce}, author={Asako Saegusa}, journal={Nature Biotechnology}, year={1999}, volume={17}, pages={946-947} }