MOST delivers biomedicine development report card

From Taiwan Today 2018-04-18

Taiwan’s biomedical sector experienced significant growth in 2017 on the back of the government’s Biomedical Industry Innovation Program. (Staff photo/Huang Chung-hsin)

Government efforts in transforming Taiwan into a regional biomedical research and development hub are paying handsome dividends, as reflected in increased industry investment and output since the Biomedical Industry Innovation Program was launched in November 2016 by the Cabinet, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Citing official statistics, the MOST said revenues of the country’s biomedical firms are estimated to have reached NT$488.4 billion (US$16.52 billion) in 2017, up 4.5 percent year on year. These comprise NT$162.5 billion in health and welfare-related products and services, NT$146.3 billion in medical devices and supplies, NT$97.7 billion in biotech applications and NT$81.9 billion in pharmaceuticals.

During the same period, a total of 118 new investment deals injected NT$52.62 billion into the sector, representing an annual increase of 3.3 percent, the ministry added.

For the first 11 months of last year, 50 locally developed devices received 510(k) clearances from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, up 11.1 percent from the same period in 2016, with the majority being high-value items such as dental, ophthalmological and orthopedic materials as well as those for minimally invasive surgeries.

In terms of pharmaceutical development, the MOST said three new domestically engineered drugs hit the market in Taiwan last year. In addition, 63 medicines under development went into clinical trials at home and abroad, including 50 that received approval from the USFDA.

According to the MOST, the biomedical development program aims to integrate innovation clusters, connect local firms to global markets and promote specialized key industries.

Toward these ends, the government has implemented a raft of measures. These include amendments to the Act for the Development of Biotech and New Pharmaceuticals Industry and Fundamental Science and Technology Act aimed at improving the business and legal environment in Taiwan.

At the same time, efforts are being directed toward talent cultivation through such initiatives as the Stanford-Taiwan Biomedical Fellowship Program. Since its launch in 2008, the program has sent 43 physicians and holders of related doctorates to Stanford University for training at the school’s Center of Cardiovascular Technology.

Regarding global connectivity, the government expects Taiwan’s expertise in preventing mosquito-triggered diseases such as dengue fever to play a key role in the nation’s medical diplomacy, particularly in Southeast Asia. (SFC-E)