Conference highlights Taiwan’s potential in biologics sector

Written By Matthew Fulco

Taiwan is set to become a larger player in the burgeoning global biological drug market – which is forecast to reach US$252 billion by 2017 – on the back of its strong research and development ability and government support.

The island is in the midst of developing a robust pipeline for biological drugs (biologics), experts say. Biologics are treatments derived from living organisms –  the cultures of living cells – instead of chemistry labs. They include a suite of products such as vaccines, blood and blood components, allergenics, gene therapy and tissues. Biological drugs are gaining popularity with consumers because of their effectiveness in treating illnesses such as breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Biologics are treatments derived from living organisms –  the cultures of living cells – instead of chemistry labs.

Gaining Momentum

From February 25-26, Taipei hosted the fourth annual Biologics World Taiwan conference. The event featured presentations by senior executives from leading biopharma and biotech firms, both local and global, as well as top Taiwanese scientists.

During his presentation, OBI Pharma chairman Michael Chang noted the Taiwan biologics sector is entering a “critical stage of global trials.” Chang said it was important for Taiwan to build on its momentum in biologics and “move toward a profitable business model.” He acknowledged the challenges in securing greater funding from investors.

the Taiwan biologics sector is entering a “critical stage of global trials.”

Herng-Der Chern, chief medical officer of Taiwan’s Supra Integration and Incubation Center, suggested during his presentation that Taiwan position itself as a “virtual mid-size biotech company.” That could be useful in building Taiwan’s brand in the field of biotechnology, he said.

On the sidelines of the conference, Taiwan Business TOPICS spoke with several delegates. “This event was very valuable for us to understand what Taiwanese companies are doing in biologics and how we can support them,” said Helge Berg, director of the biomanufacturing sciences network at Merck Millipore in Germany.

“Prior to attending this conference, I didn’t realize how buoyant the Taiwanese biotech field was,” said Nevil Chimon, chief executive officer of Singapore-based Primetrics, a contract research firm. “We’re able to catch them at their infancy and there is an opportunity to give them the support they need as they move to clinical testing.”   

“Prior to attending this conference, I didn’t realize how buoyant the Taiwanese biotech field was,” said Nevil Chimon, chief executive officer of Singapore-based Primetrics

Government Efforts

Taiwan’s biologics sector has been growing steadily since 2009 when the government launched the Taiwan Biotechnology Takeoff Diamond Action Plan. Under the scheme, the government has established a biotechnology venture capital fund, a Food and Drug Administration and an integrated biotech incubation center.

In addition, Taiwan currently has two biotech clusters, the Southern Taiwan Science Park – which is formed by parks in both Tainan and Kaohsiung – and the Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park.

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen has said her administration will seek to develop Taiwan as a research hub in Asia for biotechnology and biomedicine. “We have excellent human resources in clinical medicine and research to study diseases specific to ethnic Chinese, with a renowned international reputation,” she said during an October 2015 speech at Democratic Progressive Party headquarters.

Tsai added: “We also possess a world-class medical system with sufficient medical professionals and facilities that are well-equipped to conduct clinical tests for new medicines and medical devices.”

Taiwan’s Role in the Future of Computer Memory

Micron CEO Mark Durcan addresses AmCham Taipei Guests at a Special Luncheon on March 10 regarding the semiconductor industry in Taiwan

Micron Technology CEO Mark Durcan spoke to AmCham Taipei guests on March 10 at a special Global Executive Insights luncheon, offering a wealth of knowledge about future trends in the global computer memory industry and a clear summary of why Taiwan plays such a large role in the sector. Durcan’s full presentation is available below.

2015 Semiconductor Market Breakdown

Durcan stressed three major trends in the memory segment of the semiconductor industry:

1. Supplier consolidation:

Major semiconductor manufacturers continue to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions.

2. Diversification of end markets

During the dotcom boom and bust over 70% of memory was dedicated to PC applications. Today only 25% goes to PCs, while demand for memory in mobile devices and server/cloud applications soars. Significant growth for memory demand can also be seen in other advanced fields:

  • Automotive: crash avoidance technology
  • Medical: advanced diagnostics
  • Graphics: augmented/virtual reality and gaming

diversifyiing-memory-segments-micron-technology

3. Slowing supply growth

While demand growth for memory (measured in bits) continues to rise, the amount of new bits that can be produced each year by the industry through advances in existing technology is plateauing.

The result is a gradual shift away from supplying memory products to major OEMs, towards a diversified end market – and an increasing demand for more customized, innovative memory solutions for individual customers.

Looking forward

Due to the slowing technology-driven scaling of existing memory types (NAND and DRAM), Micron has begun to explore the development of new memory products, including:

3D NAND – a new configuration of existing NAND memory chips has tripled the capacity of existing NAND products, allowing 3.5TB to be stored in a space the size of a stick of gum while greatly reducing power consumption

3D Xpoint – An entirely new type of memory (the first in decades), Durcan claims that 3D Xpoint has the potential to dramatically transform computing architectures, boasting speeds and densities 1000x greater than those of NAND.

Taiwan’s Role

Micron, one of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers, produces 60% of it’s DRAM memory chips in Taiwan alone. Since 2008, Micron has invested US$8bn in Taiwan, with another $4bn pending the completion of their acquisition of Inotera. Durcan stressed repeatedly the importance of Taiwan to the success of Micron’s semiconductor business, highlighting several key factors that contribute to its optimal business environment:

  • Advanced education programs produce a high quality talent pool, with experience in semiconductor technology and strong work ethic
  • A Supportive and business-friendly government and regulatory environment.
  • A strong, quality-focused technology manufacturing ecosystem that drives a cost-competitive environment, as well as a high-quality test and assembly infrastructure
  • Proximity to large markets such as China, with engineers and other talent who speak the same language and live in the same time zone as customers from these markets
  • Historically affordable energy costs

AmCham Taipei would like to thank Mark Durcan and Micron for their time and willingness to share their insight with the Taiwan business community at this AmCham Special Luncheon.

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