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The big biotech challenge

Posted 28/06/2011 by KatieJ

The excitement in the air at the 2011 international BIO Convention in Washington DC is palpable. Biotechnology experts from across the globe are gathered here at the world’s largest annual biotech event to present their solutions to some of the greatest global challenges: climate change, food security and biodiversity loss, as well as therapies for a slew of potential cures for all manner of rare and often incurable diseases.

Worldwide, the development of a biobased economy could contribute billions of dollars over the next few decades, according to BIO ceo and president Jim Greenwood, speaking at a leadership summit on deploying agricultural and industrial biotechnologies on the opening day of the event.

But while developing economies, such as in India, Brazil, Malaysia and the Philippines, have often been keen to take advantage of this potential, Greenwood remarked that a surfeit of regulations in the US has effectively stifled progress towards commercialisation of these innovative technologies. Indeed, he lamented that a plethora of US regulations is ‘fast becoming the biggest impediment to progress’. In the same timeframe that Brazil saw as many as 27 new biotech product approvals, for example, Greenwood pointed out that the US had just seven, while the threat of legal challenges remains a key disincentive for firms seeking to pursue claims in the biotech space.

Fifteen years after the first introduction of a biotech crop, meanwhile, public acceptance of biotechnology remains a difficult topic in many developed economies - despite the absence of any safety problems during that time, noted the session chair Roger Wyse of consultancy firm Burrill.

Attitudes in many areas of the developing world, by contrast, are very different. In the Philippines, for example, seven GM traits are now accepted for corn, for use as foods, while a further 60 others are approved for non food applications, said Abraham Manalo, executive secretary of the country’s Biotech Coalition. The country now ranks number 13 in terms of the extent of adoption of biotech crops according to the latest ISAAA report, with farmers are seeing average yield increases of between 21 and 45%. That translates as an increased profit of around $50-$80/ha, Manalo pointed out, ‘which is no small beer considering the average monthly income is just $200/month’.

For many in the developed world, the benefits of biotechnology are as yet less well understood or appreciated. All of that could change, however, as burgeoning population growth is likely to put new and unanticipated pressures on the planet’s limited resources, and particularly our ability to grow sufficient food. By then, one hopes that it won’t be too late. As one delegate summed up during the Q&A session, maybe it is time to stop talking so much about the risks of biotechnology and start thinking about the risks of being without it.

Cath O’Driscoll – Deputy Editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    15/10/2013 06:37

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  • Anonymous said:
    14/10/2013 07:10

    The guidelines are, and<a href="http://sancmtpn.com"> suhlod</a> be a welcome development in biotech patents landscape in India. At least now we have a set of guidelines to obtain guidance from. I, personally found them of immense help in learning and analyzing biotech claims. However, as for whether the guidelines "constitute rule making", we do not have to re-invent the wheel. After all there are similar, publicly guidelines available for examining biotech patents in UK. We can learn from their experiences, and use the guidelines in our context. One more point, while going through the guidelines, I felt that the guidelines lack patents caselaw-based support. Of course, there are sporadic references made to them in the guidelines. We need more of them in order to provide "teeth" to them. Lastly and most importantly, it is a pity that despite having premier biotechnology-based research institutes like CCMB, IISc, and a host of other biotech research and academic institutes established back in the last century in the country, biotech patent regime is so neglected in India that it is only in 2013 that we could institute our guidelines for examining biotech patent applications. Could we please move faster?

  • Anonymous said:
    13/10/2013 04:49

    The guidelines are, and shluod be a welcome development in biotech patents landscape in India. At least now we have a set of guidelines to obtain guidance from. I, personally found them of immense help in learning and analyzing biotech claims. However, as for whether the guidelines "constitute rule making", we do not have to re-invent the wheel. After all there are similar, publicly guidelines available for examining biotech patents in UK. We can learn from their experiences, and use the guidelines in our context. One more point, while going through the guidelines, I felt that the guidelines lack patents caselaw-based support. Of course, there are sporadic references made to them in the guidelines. We need more of them in order to provide "teeth" to them. Lastly and most importantly, it is a pity that despite having premier biotechnology-based research institutes like CCMB, IISc, and a host of other biotech research and academic institutes established back in the last century in the country, biotech patent regime is so neglected in India that it is only in 2013 that we could institute our guidelines for examining biotech patent applications. Could we please move faster?

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