Realizing the lack of natural resources (such as petroleum or other valuable minerals) in the island, early Taiwanese governments have defined clear economic strategies that would help the country to flourish. A special consideration was given to the sector of services to strengthen the local economy. According to 2009 data by Taiwan Statistical Bureau (eng.stat.gov.tw ), the service sector (finance, real estate, commerce, telecommunication, etc.) contributed the biggest slice of GDP at 69.2 percent, with industry accounting for 29.2 percent, and agriculture 1.8 percent. These changes have begun since early 1980s when Taiwan's government shifted the focus of its economic strategy from Labor-intensive production (processed foods, wood and bamboo products) to capital-and technology-intensive industrialization (Chei-Hsiang Chen, 2007). By now, more than a quarter of national workforce is employed in the electronics and high-tech manufacturing sector, only. As of 2016, manufacturing sector represents up to 30 percent of GDP among various other economic categories such as agriculture, construction, electricity, trade, transport, public administration, finance and real estate (eng.stat.gov.tw).
In 2016, the Taiwanese government has launched a new industrial development policy consisting to promote the development of "Five Innovative Industries": (1) Smart machinery, (2) Asian Silicon Valley, (3) Green energy, (4) National defense, (5) Biotechnology & pharmaceutical industry (IDB MOE, 2017). About the latest category, Taiwan has become one of the top leaders worldwide in the field of biotechnology and has ambitious aim to shine internationally. According to the Development Center for Biotechnology (an initiative of Taiwan government, dcb.org.tw), biotechnology industry encompasses three main sub-sectors: applied biotechnology (agriculture and environment), medical devices (electronics) and pharmaceuticals. As Taiwan High-tech continues to grow, new incentives have been given to biopharma firms to boost both innovation and new products development. Taiwan’s biotech firms include Taimed, Medigen, TaiGen, TopoGenomics, TTY Biopharma in addition to many others with a combined market cap of US$23 billion. Taiwan currently has 96 drugs in the development pipeline, over half of them in Stage 2 clinical trials. Up to October 2016, for the studies listed in the US-managed website- clinicaltrials.gov, Taiwan was in first position (1537 trials) before Korea (1455), China (1372), Japan (1305) and India (1115), respectively in this descending order (Shang-Pwu Shia, 2016).
Innovative and ambitious approaches that were implemented by the Taiwanese giant biotech corporation, Medigen Vaccine Biologics Co, hope to be soon rewarding. If the vaccine being researched by Medigen for the dreadful dengue fever infection is successfully formulated, Taiwan will be known as the home of a major medical contribution that helps to protect around 4 billion people worldwide exposed to the threat of this disease, according to a news report by Sophia Yeh and Evelyn Kao, 2016. For sure, that will be also a boost for the biotech versus biopharma industry in Taiwan. And more importantly, this vaccine will counteract the life threaten risk of the victims by the virus and alleviate the social economic burden faced by affected families. Recently, a Filipina worker whom I know in Taichung, has reported the sudden death of her seven-year-old nice in the Philippines, due to Japanese dengue infection. This paper is a mean that I use to share my condolences with the family. There is hope, only and only if new vaccines are successfully developed. Good luck to Medigen!
1- IDB MOEA (2016 October). 2017 Introduction to Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical industries Industries in Taiwan, Republic of China. ISBN: 978-986-05-0005-9.
2- Yeh, S. & Kao, E. (2016, October 26). Taiwan striving to boost biotech industry growth: vice president. Retrieved from http://focustaiwan.tw/news/ast/201610260018.aspx
3- Shia, S. P. (2016, October 28). Biotech Industry in Taiwan. Retrieved from http://www.nccu.edu.tw/
4- Chen, C.H. (2007). Taiwan Biotech and the Pharmaceutical Industries. APBN, 11, 835