Malaysian Government Banks On Biotechnology For Growth
Malaysia’s biotechnology thrust began as early as in 1995, when the National Biotechnology Directorate was formed under the purview of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. However back then, biotechnology was still in its infancy in Malaysia and not much consideration has been given to it. A decade later, the sector was given a much needed boost when then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi announced that it would be the engine for Malaysia’s economic growth and development. Following the announcement, a rapid series of policies and decisions were made by the Government to support the industry first the National Biotechnology Policy was tabled in mid-2005, the National Biotechnology Division was established, and the Malaysia Biotechnology Corporation was then founded in May 2005, followed by BioNexus Malaysia in 2006. Since the implementation of these initiatives, the sector has enjoyed modest growth.
Today, Malaysia’s government is banking on biotechnology to be a key driver of the country’s economy.
Tongkat ali is one of several traditional Malaysian plants showing great medicinal and commercial promise. In purified form, it is now available in health stores and pharmacies in many countries as a nutritional supplement touting benefits such as boosting energy and fertility, and optimizing testosterone levels.
Biotropics Malaysia Berhad, a local biotechnology company, exports the vast bulk of its output to the United States as tongkat ali extract, which companies repackage under their own brands. Tengku Shahrir Tengku Adnan, CEO of Biotropics, said the products were initially inspired by traditions, local tribes and practitioners. The company employs indigenous, tribal people to source the materials and then incorporates science and quality into them.
Malaysia’s jungles are home to more than one-tenth of the world’s species. The country also has a rich history of traditional medicine, following not only indigenous traditions, but also Chinese and Indian ones.
Dr. Mohd Nazlee Kamal, CEO of BiotechCorp, believes that there are even more potentials in the jungle. “But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said.