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Biological Weapons

In December 1998 the Republic of China's Ministry of National Defense (MND) denied that the island is developing biological l weapons. A MND spokesman reiterated Taipei's pledge of not making or owning biological weapons as the country is devoted to the development and manufacture of equipment and the training against the threat of biological warfare.

Fermentation technology and biochemical technology are crucial links in the process of commercializing the results of basic research. The standards of fermentation technology research in the R.O.C. have always been quite high. Domestic biomedical research has been greatly improved, and its standards are already world class. Private biotechnology firms have come together to form the "R.O.C. Biotechnology Development Association." This organization maintains liaison between industry, government, academia and the research community, and promotes strategic alliances and technology transfer. There are more than 200 organizational and individual members.

With government encouragement, the domestic biotechnology industry has gradually increased its R&D expenditures. Many private enterprises are performing R&D in such areas as animal vaccines, flowers, vaccines, biological pesticides, antibiotics, enzymes, amino acids, organic acids, testing reagents and health foods. Some firms have already begun producing newly developed products. In addition, government enterprises such as the Taiwan Fertilizer Company, the Taiwan Sugar Company, and the China Petroleum Corporation are planning to enter biotechnology-related areas and are providing funding for basic research via the NSC.

With the enactment of the "Biotechnology Industry Promotion Program" in 1996, the Executive Yuan set up the inter-agency "Biotechnology Industry Steering Committee" to assume responsibility for relevant planning, implementation and assessment work. Implementation strategies include the amendment of laws and regulations, the provision of financing and incentives, increased R&D funding, the accelerated training of personnel, and the protection of intellectual property rights. A comprehensive framework for the development of biotechnology involving government, industry and academia is taking shape. The Executive Yuan's "implementation program" for biotechnology designates the "raw material pharmaceutical industry," "pharmaceutical industry," "animal vaccine industry," "flower industry," and "biological pesticide industry" as areas for priority development during the first phase. It is planned that "aquaculture and marine technology," "fermented products and functional foodstuffs," "industrial enzymes," and the "vaccine industry" will be areas for priority development during the second phase. Other research areas that continue to receive attention include protein technology, proteins with medical applications, and the use of proteins to modify industrial enzymes. Glyco-biology biochemistry and saccharide engineering research has commercial potential in medicine and industry. This is a field where the R.O.C. lags far behind.

In the 15 years since the inception of its biotechnology program, Taiwan has made considerable progress. One can not say the same about efforts to establish new biotech companies. Due to its short development history, lack of critical mass for "big science" innovation, and the steep learning curve in formulating national biotech policy/strategy without loud voices from industry, civil leaders and government technocrats, new-biotechnology-based manufacturing will not duplicate the past success of Taiwan's high-tech industry and will probably take significantly longer to develop.

Sources and Resources

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