A Shot in the Arm

color = "#FFB459"; A Shot in the Arm Government incentives and other factors are helping make Thailand attractive to vaccine developers. By Vitoon Vonghangool and Dr. Pham Hong Thai The world vaccine market is growing at the very fast pace of 15 percent annually, with the key drivers being increased demand, the accelerated introduction of new vaccines, mergers and acquisitions, the emergence of new vaccine players, and the growth of the bio

Vitoon Vonghangool and Dr. Pham Hong Thai
Jan 12, 2010

A Shot in the Arm

Government incentives and other factors are helping make Thailand attractive to vaccine developers.

The world vaccine market is growing at the very fast pace of 15 percent annually, with the key drivers being increased demand, the accelerated introduction of new vaccines, mergers and acquisitions, the emergence of new vaccine players, and the growth of the biotech sector through new technologies.

The vaccine market in Thailand has also grown fast, reaching around THB 4.0 billion ($US120 million), with the Ministry of Public Health (MOH) being the major customer. The MOH purchases for its National Immunization Program mainly pediatric vaccines but also vaccines for women and travelers and for postexposure rabies treatment. Vaccines are also available on the private market and mainly imported as finished products, though some are imported in bulk form or in naked vials to be filled and packed by GPO-MBP, a local joint...

The world vaccine market is growing at the very fast pace of 15 percent annually, with the key drivers being increased demand, the accelerated introduction of new vaccines, mergers and acquisitions, the emergence of new vaccine players, and the growth of the biotech sector through new technologies.

The vaccine market in Thailand has also grown fast, reaching around THB 4.0 billion ($US120 million), with the Ministry of Public Health (MOH) being the major customer. The MOH purchases for its National Immunization Program mainly pediatric vaccines but also vaccines for women and travelers and for postexposure rabies treatment. Vaccines are also available on the private market and mainly imported as finished products, though some are imported in bulk form or in naked vials to be filled and packed by GPO-MBP, a local joint venture between the GPO (Government Pharmaceutical Organization) and a multinational. A few traditional vaccines are also produced by two local organizations: the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (QSMI), which is part of the Thai Red Cross Society, and the GPO.

Thus Thailand is one of only three out of the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) that produces vaccines.

Thailand is also known for its academic research on vaccines against diseases prevalent in the country and as a top location for conducting clinical trials of vaccines against diseases such as Japanese encephalitis and dengue.

Thailand’s government has recently made some efforts to strengthen the pharmaceutical biotech industry with tax and nontax incentives such as an 8-year income tax exemption, a 200 percent tax credit on R&D activities, and permission to bring in foreign workers. Only time will tell whether these measures have created a favorable enough environment or whether more incentives are needed to attract pharma and biotech companies to the country.

Considerations for biotech start-ups developing vaccines include product technology, location of development operations, skills of the development and operation team, and opportunities for local public–private partnerships. The production of vaccines requires very large investments, therefore new companies should thoroughly assess their manufacturing and business strategies, including production capacity, competency of the local workforce, product needs for both domestic and export markets, and options for funding.

While progress in attracting foreign bioindustries in Thailand has been remarkable, so far not many biotech companies have set up their development or manufacturing facilities in the country apart from Thai-owned pharmaceutical companies upgrading their plants or investing in new projects.

BioNet has started a research program on an acellular pertussis vaccine in collaboration with Mahidol University and is exploring various public–private partnerships with other institutions and organizations in the field of vaccine R&D.

Vitoon Vonghangool is the Managing Director, and Dr. Pham Hong Thai is the Joint-Managing Director, BioNet-Asia Co., Ltd.

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