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Genomics and Biology. Biotechnology and genomics.
Health Biotechnology- Paradigms of Success

With increasing interests, health biotechnology is no longer the sole preserve of high-level research institutions of North America and Europe. The lucrative market and crying need to address human sufferings and diseases are making developing countries take stock of the situation and forge alliances to be in the forefront of research of this sunrise sector. Vaccines for prevention of many diseases and epidemic, diagnostic tools and other products of biotechnology which can be produced relatively easily and cheaply by developing countries have the potential to save millions of people who die each year from diseases.

Following factors are a key to develop the sector:

Focusing on local health needs

Important role of the private sector in commercialization.

Collaboration between academics and industry and government and industry.

Carving a niche area.

Long-term and sustained government support.

A disturbing phenomenon observed in this sector is that because markets for drugs in industrialized countries are much more lucrative, development of health products for people in the poorer parts of the world has lagged behind badly. Of 1,393 new drugs marketed between 1975 and 1999, only 16 were for tropical and other diseases predominantly affecting developing countries and three of the 16, were for tuberculosis, which affects worldwide. More than 175 new drugs were developed for cardiovascular disease in the same period.

Developing countries would need to take steps to contribute to the creation of health products required for their needs. This would require not only increased outlay on core and applied research efforts but also the increased collaboration and cooperation between industry and private sector on one hand and research institutions, academics and government institutes on the other hand. Government would also do a world of good through fiscal contribution and other tax benefits to the biotech industry. One must understand that the biotechnology in health sector has a long gestation period and serious, long term and sustained efforts are required to promote the development of the sector in a worthwhile manner.

One can take a cue from the example of South Korea. Although a late starter in biotechnology arena, when compared to other advanced or even developing countries, the South Korean government has played a critical leadership role and has chalked out a plan to invest about $4.4 billion in the field from 2000 to 2007. Equally important, government policies encourage technology transfer and allow university professors to set up private firms or spin-off companies, which promotes world class entrepreneurship and skill set.


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