As per a study released by Institute, University of Toledo (UT) has been rated among world’s top nonprofit organizations for transforming research dollars into biotechnology companies. For every $14 million that University of Toledo had spent on research in 2004, it created a new biotechnology start up which has given it the seventh spot among academic centers in Asia, Europe and North America. The first spot was garnered by Satakunta Polytechnic which established one new company for every $400,000. The second spot was occupied by Brigham Young University in Utah. Though UT achieved improvement in its access to research dollars and commercialization of patents since the year 200, the university has stated that its research expenditures were not that much to emerge as the central incubator of technology in metropolitan Toledo.
BASF has stated that it has given an application to Defra for conducting trials of genetically modified blight resistant potatoes in the UK and this has again shifted the attention over the question as to whether or not GM has got a place in UK agriculture. Meanwhile as the deadline for responses to the Government’s GM co-existence consultation comes closer there seems to be a divided opinion as ever. A straw poll on ‘Should we grow GM potatoes in the UK?’ which was conducted by Farmers Guardian showed that the respondents were divided on this question. Also a number of questions have been raised regarding the blight control in the UK. These questions are: Is there blight resistance available in conventionally-bred potato varieties? Is it becoming more difficult and expensive? Are the BASF GM varieties resistant to the A2 blight strain?
For nearly a century the limestone miners made their living by working in the Southern Indiana’s cave country. Times have changed now and this rock quarry has now been turned into a warehouse. In this bottomless maze the air is chilly and damp. There are roads that connect 12 large chambers. Some of these chambers are being used by the US military to store ready to eat meals. The place is also being used by tire companies to store their supplies because of the stable temperature conditions. One of the rooms in this quarry is being used to grow corns. The room is a hot one with the temperature constant at 82 degrees. With the help of biotechnology gene sequence from a different species or an unrelated plant can be inserted into corn. As the corn grows the protein can be harvested and used for vaccine or a drug. The plants can be used to make life saving compounds for diseases like cystic fibrosis or diabetes or cancer.
There is an increased incentive to lure companies to the east by giving them lucrative offers like multimillion dollar incentives, cheaper lands. Medical research companies are looking to take advantage of this opportunity and expand their operations. Florida has been able to attract 3 facilities form San Diego- The Scripps Research Institute, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies. All of these companies intend to create a biotechnology hub along the Treasure Coast a hub similar to California and North Carolina’s Research Triangle. There are mixed reactions on this opinion. One fragment feels that it would offer new areas of growth and there will be reduced dependence on agriculture and tourism. The other section feels that Florida has missed the opportunity and the opportunity can not be bought by providing incentives. The state has a weak education system which acts a big hurdle.
Kedah can take the help of biotech for its growth in the field of agriculture. According to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, the biotechnology industry will also help them to commercialize their agriculture products. There is potential in the agriculture sector, with the growth of the biotech industry private sector will come up and try to get a share of the growing sector. The Investment Seminar 2006 (Agriculture sub-sector) in Alor Star had around 450 agriculture entrepreneur from Penang, Perlis and Kedah who attended the one day seminar. As per Mahdzir, the state has set up the AgroKedah Sdn Bhd. The purpose is to promote Kedah to probable investors who are interested in agricultural projects by making use of biotechnology. It is believed that investors would be willing to come to Kedah as the government has promised a steady supply of basic facilities and labor. With the help of biotechnology the efforts of the farmers are reduced and the revenues soar up.
Malaysia has realized the importance of biotechnology and in order to realize its dreams is roping in two Bay Area partners to become a biotechnology center. It is trying to emulate Singapore which has been quite successful in this area. In order to make it possible the country is in the process of launching $200 million venture capital fund which would be co-managed by Burrill &Co. and Malaysian Technology Development Corporation. It seems that the whole of Asia is gearing up to do something in the field of biotechnology.
You all must be knowing who Tom Siebel is? He is a well known computer software tycoon and he stated that if he was to start his business today he would opt out of the field of computer and move towards biotechnology or energy industries. He believes that these areas present a lot of opportunities in the future. He spoke his thoughts while addressing the students at the University of Montana School of Business. When people like Tom Siebel advocates a technology then it seems that certainly that technology has something to deliver.
Advaxis which is a New Jersey based biotechnology company is working towards creating vaccines for treating various types of cancers found in women including breast cancer. Already the team at Advaxis has taken a major step in developing a number of cancer fighting vaccines. A bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes which is found in dairy products was used by the team. The team modified Listeria for delivering cancer antigens. Using the power of the immune system it attacked the Listeria and at the same time also redirected the immune system for attacking cancer cells. The vaccine named Lovaxin B is in the pre clinical testing stage and the company plans to manufacture significant quantities of the vaccine and is waiting for FDA approval for a clinical trial. If successful in its trial it would certainly go a log way in curing cancers in women.
Who is the best in creating new biotechnology ideas- MIT or Harvard? Well, well Harvard is the leader in published papers but in terms of converting the ideas into moneymaking ideas MIT steals the show. The study which was conducted by Milken Institute studied science productivity of several years from universities worldwide. In the case of North American universities the factors which were taken into consideration were number of spinoff companies created and the amount of money that was earned by the schools through licensing. But alas both MIT and Harvard didn’t reach the top ten list in terms of ideas patented and these positions were led by Texas and California.
Jeff Swiatek got an opportunity to interview Ronald D. Henriksen, an innovator and former Lilly executive who was there when biotechnology revolution started in 1976 and when world’s leading biotech engineers came together for comparing their notes at Eli Lilly. In 1993 Henriksen left Lilly and started hi career in venture financing and tech startups. Now he is the CEO of two biotech startups called Semafore Pharmaceuticals and EndGenitor Technologies. This an intensive interview which has focused around the biotechnology field and his work involved. To read the whole interview click here.