Taiwan’s efforts to position itself as a major biotechnology hub received a further boost today with the opening of Merck KGaA’s dedicated technology training centre in Xizhi City, Taipei County.
The Asian Technology Training Center (ATTC) will help local customers that use Merck's range of chromatography solutions for the production of biologic drugs and is a reflection of the development of Taiwan's bioprocessing infrastructure.
In the 1980s the Taiwanese government began to invest in biotechnology R&D, spending around 30 per cent of its annual science budget on the sector which was, at the time, still relatively small.
This investment resulted in the development of three science bases: Hsinchu; the Central Taiwan Science Park and the Southern Taiwan Science Park, where Merck’s new unit will be based. The three science parks alone generated revenues of $60.8bn last year according to Taiwan’s National Science Council (NSC).
This infrastructure has proved irresistible to industry players like Applied Biosystems, Invitrogen, Dionex and Novartis which, in addition to Merck, have all established a presence in the country.
However, rather than rest on its laurels, in 2007 Taiwan redoubled its efforts and issued a “statute for the development of biotechnology new drug industry” containing a raft of measures to further encourage both international and local biotechnology companies.
Key features of the legislation included a 35 per cent tax break on R&D spending for biotech companies and the insistence by health authorities that all manufacturers comply with inspection rules set out by the European Union.
ATTC expands Merck’s training network
Merck was among the first firms to be attracted by Taiwan’s biotechnology focus, establishing a presence in the country in 1989. Since then, the German company has built up a roster of clients for its laboratory equipment and raw materials businesses.
The firm’s new ATTC unit will be housed in facilities provided by the Development Center for Biotechnology (DCB), the non-profit arm of Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affiairs which worked closely with Merck on the unit's creation. The facility, which is the company’s third dedicated educational centre, will also serve as a shop window for international firms wishing to utilise Merck’s technology transfer services.
According to Merck Taiwan managing director William Chen, the company has invested just NT$10m (€235,146) in the ATTC but expects that the potential returns will be much higher.
While Merck failed to respond to in-PharmaTechnologist.com’s questions, a statement issued by the firm’s head of performance life science chemicals, Klaus Bischoff, laid out the rationale behind setting up the new unit.
Bischoff said that: “Providing best in class technical service and advice to our customers and customer proximity are becoming more important elements of our business approach,” adding that the ATTC is “an important milestone in our efforts to build a global network.”
DCB chairman Shih Yen-Shiang was also upbeat, describing the collaboration as “win-win.” He explained that: “On the one hand, DCB can offer Merck an excellent, exisiting infrastructure, and on the other hand, Merck can offer DCB and Taiwan global visibility and regional networks for biotech business.”