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Taiwan's Strengths from Biotechnology Innovations to Commercialization

NVF's decision to establish its world's first mentoring program in Taiwan shows that Taiwan's biotech industry has been recognized by global renowned professional venture capital firms. From a VC's perspective, the biomedical and device industry in Taiwan is of great potential especially in combination with its clinical trial capabilities. To further drive the growth of Taiwan's biotech industry, Taiwan may leverage local expertise across existing industries such as, IT.

Taiwan's Strengths from Biotechnology Innovations to Commercialization
Taiwan has always been very strong and active in biotechnology research and developments. With the government's emphasis on higher education and research, Taiwan has trained a diverse pool of talents in the scientific and technical fields, which is what is required to drive innovations in multidisciplinary biomedical research. Moreover, Taiwan's recognized strengths in several industries such as IT, semiconductor, and precision machining allow companies in Taiwan to conduct biomedical research in various fields spanning from drugs, diagnostics, medical devices, medical software, to medical equipment. Such diversity in Taiwan's biomedical research efforts has been attracting the attention of international investors over the past several years.
 
In addition to Taiwan's strengths in early stage biomedical research, Taiwan's clinical research and clinical trial capabilities have also earned international recognition. Taiwan possesses world-class medical professionals and a healthy research environment. Furthermore, the quality of performing clinical trials in Taiwan is above average among APAC countries, and therefore Taiwan definitely has its competitive advantages in undertaking clinical experiments.  Back in 2004, Novartis Taiwan established the International Clinical Research Organization (ICRO). Under this project, Novartis has collaborated with medical centers island wide to introduce more than 227 clinical trials of diversified disease areas in Taiwan. Such move has allowed Novartis to explore the feasibility of developing new drugs and enhance the training of new drug research talents in Taiwan.
 
Attracted by Taiwan's unique research and development capabilities in the biotechnology and medical device sector, Novartis Venture Fund (NVF) already started to explore investment possibilities in Taiwan since 2013. Every year, NVF comes to Taiwan to survey novel technologies being developed in research institutes and startups. NVF focus on breakthrough opportunities that have potential to bring significant benefit to patients in areas of unmet clinical need. It is also interested in biomedical firms that can leverage the highly-developed industries including semiconductor and information technology in Taiwan. Last year, NVF launched its first official mentoring program in Taiwan. This program selects high-potential biotech companies/projects and provides professional consultation for at least one year. The tailored mentoring program aims to give local biotechnology startups crucial advice based on real-world experiences to help them fully realize their potential and enhance their capacity to qualify for potential NVF and other VC investments. NVF's decision to establish its world's first mentoring program in Taiwan shows that Taiwan's biotech industry has been recognized by global renowned professional venture capital firms. In combination with Taiwan's research capabilities to drive innovations, NVF's efforts in Taiwan shall become a boost to Taiwan's overall biotech development.
 
From a VC's perspective, the biomedical and device industry in Taiwan is of great potential especially in combination with its clinical trial capabilities. To further drive the growth of Taiwan's biotech industry, Taiwan may leverage local expertise across existing industries such as, IT. Taiwan's strengths in these fields are anticipated to support the product development processes with patient monitoring, patient characterization and also individualized therapies. It would also be beneficial for Taiwan to focus on local or regional healthcare issues first and then go global once the foundation is solid. It is also important to keep in mind that while focusing on patient benefits is essential; finding the right balance between access to patients, innovation plus supporting building local expertise will be the key to success for a thriving startup environment. In sum, Taiwan's biotechnology industry should be able to grow steadily with adequate support and mentoring to early innovations and start-ups from the government and private sectors. Given enough time to mature, we can expect the biotech industry as a significant contributor to Taiwan's economy growth.
- A venture capitalist's perspective by Reinhard Ambros, PhD, 
Executive Global Head, Novartis Venture Fund
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