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The Bioindustry in Thailand

color = "#DF1F26";.pullquote_left1, .pullquote_right1, .pullquote_left, .pullquote_right { color: #FEF8F6; background: #939598 }.breakhead { color: #DF1F26; border-bottom: 1px solid #DF1F26; } The Bioindustry in Thailand Opportunities for Green and Sustainable Investment The global market for green and clean industry has expanded rapidly as society in general is becoming increasingly concerned about issues such as climate change and the imp

Thailand Board of Investment

The Bioindustry in Thailand

Opportunities for Green and Sustainable Investment

The global market for green and clean industry has expanded rapidly as society in general is becoming increasingly concerned about issues such as climate change and the impact of rising energy prices. Thailand is no exception. In fact, the Thai government has already put into place a 15-year plan for exploring and developing sources of alternative energy to cope with higher oil prices in the future, with a special focus on biofuels.

Thailand is constantly improving and building upon its capabilities. To sustain and augment biofuel production, the country is investigating and supporting biotechnology opportunities in order to increase the yield of raw materials such as sugarcane, cassava and palm oil. Thailand will leverage its abundant natural advantages to develop the country’s clean energy sector and, thus, is in an excellent position to become the regional hub for biofuel and...

Opportunities for Green and Sustainable Investment

The global market for green and clean industry has expanded rapidly as society in general is becoming increasingly concerned about issues such as climate change and the impact of rising energy prices. Thailand is no exception. In fact, the Thai government has already put into place a 15-year plan for exploring and developing sources of alternative energy to cope with higher oil prices in the future, with a special focus on biofuels.

Thailand is constantly improving and building upon its capabilities. To sustain and augment biofuel production, the country is investigating and supporting biotechnology opportunities in order to increase the yield of raw materials such as sugarcane, cassava and palm oil. Thailand will leverage its abundant natural advantages to develop the country’s clean energy sector and, thus, is in an excellent position to become the regional hub for biofuel and bioplastic production and export.

Furthermore, there is growing interest from local industries in adopting wastewater treatment technologies that are coupled with biogas production. More than 2,300 bioreactor systems have been deployed since 2007 in agro-industry, at bio-refineries and at various municipal level facilities.

The clean energy sector is an important pillar of Thailand’s bio-industry and is a target sector for investment promotion in Thailand.

Natural Advantages

Biofuel: Ethanol & Biodiesel.
The major crops used for ethanol production in Thailand are sugarcane and cassava. Currently, Thailand is the largest producer of sugarcane in Southeast Asia, with annual production of about 73 million tons. Cassava is considered one of the best raw materials for ethanol production. Thailand is the number one cassava exporter and the number two sugar exporter in the world.

Biomass.
Thanks to its strong agricultural base and ranking among the world’s top exporters of several key agricultural commodities, biomass has traditionally been one of the more pervasive sources of alternative energy in Thailand, accounting for approximately 80% of Thailand’s alternative energy. The Thai government has been promoting the supporting infrastructure for this energy source for years.

Biogas.
Thailand has approximately 10,000 food factories and 20 million head of livestock generating waste and wastewater that can be utilized for biogas production. The top sources of feedstock for biogas production are cow manure, cassava pulp, wastewater from cassava-starch, palm oil, and tapioca production facilities. Biogas produced from various agricultural and industrial manufacturing processes and from organic municipal solid waste offers incredible opportunities to small-scale producers.

Bioplastics.
In addition to its abundance of raw materials that can be used for bioplastics production, Thailand has a well-established plastics industry—with 4,500 factories producing a wide range of products for overseas customers. It is the number one plastics exporter in ASEAN and the eighth largest plastics exporter worldwide. The bioplastics sector can capitalize on the existing capabilities, network, and resources of this industry to hasten its own development and growth.

There are tremendous opportunities for Thailand to tackle the country’s growing waste management and disposal problem through the production of bioplastics. Greater adoption of bioplastics will result in cost saving as well as better waste disposal practices.

Microbial Utilization.
Thailand is also carving a niche as a bio-resource for new bioactive compounds discovery. Thailand is home to various distinct species of fungi, microorganisms, insects, and plants, and Thai researchers from the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) have discovered bioactive compounds that can fight diseases such as cancer, malaria, and tuberculosis.

BIOTEC is running a Bioresources Utilization Program to preserve, utilize, and manage the country’s rich microbial diversity. Its mission is to exploit and transform the unique microbial resources available in Thailand into value-added ingredients that can be used in the pharmaceutical, food and feed, and enzyme industries. It is also tasked with developing platform and innovative technologies, as well as building up the national R&D infrastructure for bioresources utilization.

Leading Medical Services

Thailand is the world’s leader in medical tourism, offering world-class technology infrastructure and quality of care at a fraction of the cost of similar procedures in developed countries. Nearly 2 million foreign patients visit Thailand each year for the range of health care services, including sophisticated procedures like stem cell treatment. As a result, the domestic drugs and medical market has grown to over US$1 billion.

In addition to being the premium health care service provider, Thailand is also known as a leader in biotechnology research programs, especially in emerging diseases (e.g., avian flu), re-emerging diseases (e.g., HIV and tuberculosis) and tropical diseases (e.g., malaria and dengue).

Pharmaceutical Products.
BIOTECH-Novartis International Pharmaceutical Drug Discovery Partnership: A three-year partnership was initiated in 2005 with the goal of identifying potential uses of micro-organisms and natural compounds as sources for innovative medicine. The research partnership has recently been extended for another three years to May 2011.

Diagnostic Kits/Service.
Thailand has been successful in the development of the world’s first commercial biosensors for avian influenza H5. Biosensor products include Avian Influenza, the Alpha Thalassemia immunochromatographic strip test and simple CD4+ lymphocytes test kits used to count CD4 lymphocytes or T-cells for HIV patients.

In the service industry, there are now at least three companies providing genetic testing services. These services are beneficial in the prediction of diseases and prevention of the side effects from taking medicine.

Stem Cell Technology.
In July of 2008, the transplant of bone marrow blood stem cells for leukemia became the only authorized use of stem cells in Thailand.

Supportive Infrastructure

An extensive public infrastructure is already in place to support biotechnology and science research. With more than 15 research centers involved in conducting research into alternative energy and biotechnology, Thailand is looking to be a leading force in this movement. Of particular note is the work being done by:

National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA).
The NSTDA is an independent government organization providing technical assistance, research, and development services to Thai industry. It provides R&D grants in the public and private sector and implements in-house research at four national research centers (BIOTEC, NECTEC, MTEC, NANOTEC). The Technology Management Center (TMC) and Thailand Science Park (TSP) under NSTDA provide a range of services, e.g. intellectual property management, incubation facilities, industrial consulting and technological upgrading in the private sector. Currently there are seven legal acts protecting IP rights in Thailand.

Thailand Science Park (TSP).
TSP was established in 2002 as a one-stop service center to assist foreign and local companies engaged in scientific and technological research. It serves as a hub for R&D and facilitates collaboration among academia, industry researchers, and the NSTDA. About a third of the companies within the park are biotechnology based. The TSP facility works with many world-leading biotechnological companies such as Ecolab, Air Products, Alltech Biotechnology, Shiseido, and Maine Biotechnology.

Thailand Center of Excellence for Life Sciences (TCELS).
In 2003, TCELS was established as a center of knowledge management to add value in health biosciences. Its primary functions are to support the establishment of bioscience companies in Thailand; develop the basic infrastructure to increase product value, service and investment; set up funding for business; and bridge the public and private sectors in the development of products, business, and investment.

Enhancing Human Capital

To ensure the future development of the biotechnology industry in Thailand, the National Biotechnology Policy Framework (NBPF) estimates future demand for an additional 500 biotech managers and 10,000 biotech university students. Twenty four of Thailand’s universities have the combined annual capacity to supply 800-900 individuals with undergraduate biotechnology degrees, 300-400 MScs and 50 PhDs. BIOTEC is also conducting a regional capacity building program to enhance the skill and availability of human resources for Thailand’s biotechnology industry.

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