Taiwan Poised to Take Center Stage in Life Sciences

Taiwan Poised to Take Center Stage in Life Sciences

Back on July 24, BioWorld took a look at how, “Boosted by COVID-19 success, Taiwan life sciences sector building government, investor support.” After no COVID-19 cases for 100 days, Taiwan looks like a success and, “has drawn attention to its medical achievements.” Recently, President Tsai Ing-wen repeated her vow, “to make biotech a strategic development area for the nation.” She noted that in 2019 sector revenue grew 8.7% and also attracted $1.9 billion in investments and argues that, “biotech will be the next trillion-dollar industry for Taiwan.” The nation’s Biotech and New Pharmaceutical Development Act is expiring in 2021, but Tsai plans to extend it for 10 years and also expand the areas covered. The act reduces corporate tax up to 35% and also, “allows publicly funded researchers to help private companies with R&D.” It covers drugs, devices, emerging biotech products, as well as, “digital health and biotech products of national strategic value.” 

Government and Private Sector Both Support Life Sciences

Current projects include COVID-19 vaccine development by The National Health Research Institutes and the local drug firm Adimmune Corp., Chang Gung University is partnering with Australia’s Monash University to study of ivermectin’s, “and biotech firm Senhwa Biosciences Inc. is looking at its CK2 inhibitor, silmitasertib, as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.” In the big picture, data based from Taiwania Capital Management Corp. shows that about 300 trials were conducted in Taiwan in 2017, and 214 of these were multinational and multicenter trials. Taiwania’s life science investments managing partner, Michael Huang says that the country has an opportunity to excel in biotech based on its, “comprehensive bio-industrial ecosystem, government policies and incentives, and dynamic private investment.”

Taiwan has about 400 biotech and medical-tech firms, and they are spread out in six science-based industrial parks. Taipei, the capital, houses 178 of these companies at its Nankang Biotech Park and Neihu Technology Park. Slightly farther from Taipei, the Hsinchu Science Park and Hsinchus Biomedical Park house 97 companies, “that develop equipment, in vitro diagnostics, biologics and medical devices.” Huang says, “We want to really create a hub here in Taiwan—The key will be input and support from government.” He also noted that open investment incentives bring additional venture money into the sector. The Taiwanese government gives R&D guidance and subsidies including, “the small business innovation research program, the global R&D innovation partner program, a fast track for clinical trials program, and the A+ industrial innovation R&D program.” There are also tax deductions for private biotech investment, private involvement in public infrastructure developments, “and a competitive corporate tax rate of 20%.”

Private investment in the nation’s biotech sector was $1.8 billion in 2018, and has increased steadily, “at a CAGR of 6.26% since 2010.” Pharma accounted for $733 million of the 2018 funds; of this, new drug firms took 22%. Med-tech took in $583 million and applied biotech accounted for $523 million. In April, Danish firm Leo Pharma offered Taipei’s Oneness Biotech Co Ltd. An up-front $40 million “and milestone payments up to $530 million” for licensing Oneness’ eczema and asthma candidate, FB-825. Leo CEO Kim Kjoller said it was a, “promising novel drug candidate” after viewing early human data. This deal was a record high for an “out-licensing deal” for a Taiwanese biotech. From an international perspective, “Technology originating in Taiwan can be partnered and developed in Japan to ultimately be marketed in the U.S.,” says Frederick Shane, the managing partner of Tokyo-based Axil Capital Partners LLP. “Otherwise, a Japanese product could possibly be manufactured in Taiwan to maximize efficiency and seek approval in the U.S.”

Taipei Times Reports on “Biomedical Tech R&D Hub”

 On August 28, the Taipei Times reported on Premier Su Tseng-chang’s further plan for a “biomedical tech R&D hub” in that county. The plan includes government agencies taking proactive moves to strengthen, “precision healthcare by integrating innovative technologies in various fields.” As an example, “big data” and biomedicine can be integrated into the care sector. Su said that, “This would help position the nation as an international biomedical innovation and R&D hub, and a global leader in precision healthcare.” Since the plan was proposed, involved agencies have promoted the integration of databases, promoted innovation teams, and worked for approval of “new drugs and medical equipment by foreign governments”; together these moves have brought, “remarkable results and boosted revenue in the biomedical industry.” 

Work to grow innovation clusters has had excellent results. These include opening of the National Biotechnology Park in 2018, the National Taiwan University Hospital Hsinchu Branch in 2019, and the Southern Taiwan Science Park Smart Biotech Medical Cluster in April 2020. The Hsinchu Branch how hosts 26 firms. The government has earmarked $118.6 million for building a third biomedical complex with the idea that the nation can consolidate its place in the international market, offer employment in Taiwan, and generally encourage economic growth. Taiwan has high credibility after the initial COVID-19 pandemic: they were successful in slowing the disease and they were able to develop testing kits, drugs, and vaccine candidates in a rapid manner.