Thailand was until recently not know to have made significant contributions to the life sciences industry. However, the landscape is changing rapidly in the 'Land of Free'. Much of the credit for this development goes to the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology also known as BIOTEC.
BIOTEC was first set up under the Ministry for Science, Technology and Energy on September 20, 1983. After the establishment of National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) on December 30, 1991, BIOTEC became one of the NSTDA centers, operating outside the normal framework of civil service and state enterprises. Basic funding for the organization comes from the NSTDA.
As a premier research institute in Thailand, BIOTEC operates research units at Thailand Science Park and specialized laboratories hosted by various universities, covering a wide spectrum of research topics from agricultural science to biomedical science and environmental science. BIOTEC spends 75 percent of the revenue allotted to it on R&D. For the fiscal year 2011, its budget was approximately $24.5 million (753 million Baht) and the total expenditure was approximately $21 million (643.73 million Baht). "We have roles similar to NSTDA, that is to promote biotech industry in Thailand, get involved in the technology transfer process, and provide infrastructure to companies willing to carry out research in Thailand," said Dr Kanyawim Kirtikara, executive director, BIOTEC.
Apart from research and commercialization, BIOTEC activities also include policy research, outreach programs, human resource development and international relations. The organization has been at the forefront in attracting talent from biotechnology. Out of the 570 staff employed at BIOTEC, there are 36 percent MSc, 30 percent B Sc and 29 percent PhD degree holders, and 83 percent of the staff at the institution is involved in R&D.
The organization also collaborates with various companies and industries from Thailand and abroad, and the year 2012 has been fruitful for the organization.For instance, BIOTEC and Novartis, a leading multinational, decided to extend their 2005 partnership for another three years in April 2012. In 2005, Novartis and BIOTEC collaborated to decipher the potential use of microorganisms and natural compounds as sources of new medicines to treat diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and tropical diseases.