What is the role of the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp)?

KAMAL: Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation was formed in 2005 and our role is basically to drive the biotech industry in Malaysia. The formation of the National Biotech Policy, which has been divided into three different phases, phase one 2005 - 2010, phase two 2011 - 2015, and the last leg will be 2016 - 2020, which is a very crucial timeline for us because the aspiration of the country is to be a developed country by 2020. So biotech is regarded as one of the most important areas of development that will contribute back into the economy.

In 2012, our Prime Minister launched what we call bio-economy Malaysia. That will also be very significant and as the world is changing, with climates issues, environmental issues, we add on to the national biotech policy and I think to date, we have been very successful in bringing investment in the area. During the second phase our target was MYR 9bn, which is equivalent to $3bn and we achieved MYR 18bn in terms of investment into biotech. We see that as quite significant and that will translate into more jobs for Malaysians and more exports and also domestic requirements will be met by the industry. I think we are playing a very important role in driving the agenda.

Where does Malaysia’s biotech industry stand today?

KAMAL: I think over the years we've see a lot of development in the field and now we are talking about not only biotech but also bio-based technology where we are addressing the issue of energy, we are addressing the issue of wellness, and we are addressing the issue of increasing the income of the rural communities. I think biotech is now playing an important part in driving that agenda, and most importantly in translating the science to business. In Malaysia, we're in the development of what we call the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). We decided to basically develop the bio-economy transformation program, and that would be very significant in terms of organizing ourselves and coordination between the government sector and the private sector. So the public-private partnership becomes a very important ingredient in driving this agenda, and we are doing it in a coordinated form.

We have the Ministry responsible to ensure programs that we put on the ground will be successful and we track the milestone achievement of each project, and most importantly, in devising a new business model, in reducing the influence of, let's say, middle men. The main focal point in our biotech agenda in the country today would be the cosmeceutical and nutraceutical industries. That is great for Malaysia because of our biodiversity and translating our biodiversity into products. I think that would be a very significant contribution on the bio-industry.

The area of bio-waste chemicals is also interesting because we have huge amount of byproducts from our palm oil industry. From the 5m hectares of oil palm estate, we generate roughly 100m tons of biomass, and that's going to be a very significant asset that we have that we can translate into fuels, into chemicals. So bio-waste chemicals become a very important agenda for us.

But that's the driver that we'll say will drive the private sector more, but the nutraceutical, and the cosmeceutical, and the herbal business will contribute to rural community development because that area would require quite a number of farmers to be involved. Technology should also be part of the whole scheme because the use of high tech, in increasing that yield, would be a very significant contribution from bio-based technology.

How does the Malaysian Biotech Corporation play a role in the Islamic economy?

KAMAL: We launched what we call Halal bio-economy and I think that's a very interesting, a new, concept. A lot of people are asking us what exactly a Halal bio-economy means. Apart from Halal meaning no pocine and no alcohol, the emphasis is actually not that. The emphasis would be on the Shariah compliance in terms of financing, in terms of the business model, and also obviously on consumer safety. When we say Halal, it means that it's also free from any toxic material that may cause health problems.

I think for the branding for Halal bio-economy, we say that we develop it together with our partners, the Halal Development Corporation, and also Aljomaih, AJ Pharma, and we hope that more people will join us. In fact, A Cross for a Future decided to join us as part of the party because we said there's a role to play in terms of Islamic economy and especially in driving a new business model and we can look at the Shariah compliance in terms of business and use of waqaf land.

I think in the Islamic world, waqaf is a huge asset, but they're not being properly utilized in terms of the interest of the public. With that combination, let's say we're looking at eliminating poverty in the Islamic world by incorporating use of bio-based technology, increasing yield, I believe that would be a very important agenda for us to contribute.

Whatever experience we have in Malaysia, we could probably replicate that, as it's for the best of the world. I think with that kind of strategy we say that we could also use all the resources that we need to make it happen. Many countries will require a lot of help in terms of technology, in terms of development, in terms of removing poverty, I think that would be very healthy that all of us can join forces and coordinate ourselves in driving the Islamic economy worldwide.

What are the future goals for the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation?

KAMAL: Actually, we have the internal and external component in terms of driving the agenda. Internally, we say that the bio-economy Malaysia would be a very important agenda for us in driving the bio-based technology to the maximum in the country. We are blessed with our city on the equator and so whatever we put in the ground, we can grow. But again, translating that to business, to commercial, and making sure that we cover it end-to-end in terms of the value chains, that would be a very important agenda for us to drive.

But again, our contribution to the rest of the world will be that the model that we develop could be shared. So sharing is, I believe, one of the important components that we would like to do; sharing with the rest of the world and how we can replicate this model to other countries and help other countries to grow. We have the vision for 2020, that Malaysia will be a developed country by 2020, but some other countries will say we would like to move our positioning from a poor country to a middle class country. Every country has their own vision and their own objectives, but I think we can share in terms of experience and replicate the model. That will be our contribution in terms of developing this industry and obviously, what we have captured so far with the data that we've collected, I think that could be very interesting to share with the rest of the world.