Biotechnology: China Announces Major Program for this decade

Biotechnology: China Announces Major Program for this decade
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ChinaBio publihed the following article describing the major axes of China’s Biotechnology strategy for this decade: “To establish itself in the global front rank of biotech innovation, China has issued the National Program on Bioscience Technology Development 2010-2020. The program, which was issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology, establishes a series of ambitious, very specific goals for developing a world-class biotech industry in China. As a starter, China wants to produce three to five top biotech scientists with international reputations and Nobel Prize potential by 2020.

There are four major points to the program. By 2020, the National Program plans to:

1. Produce 3-5 world-class scientists in bioscience, especially in the areas of biofuel and treatment of major diseases;

2. Build a “biotech talent pyramid,” focusing on five major areas, including development of world-class scientific talent, first-rank innovation and teams, leadership, industry expertise, and biotech management;

3. Cultivate 30-50 world-class innovators and a number of innovation teams in the areas of: genomics and functional genomics, stem cells and tissue engineering, transgenic plants and animals, cloned animals, and neuroscience;

4. Produce 300-500 leaders in the field, 30,000-50,000 specialists, and 300,000 bio-industry experts in the areas of bio-medicine, bio-agriculture, bio-manufacturing, and bio-environment; cultivate and develop 3000-5000 senior managers in biotechnology.

Approximately 250,000 people are already working in various areas of biotech in the PRC. However, the new program specifically admits that the industry still lags behind that of other advanced countries. The report cites four particular problems:

1. A general shortage in the total number of biotechnology experts in China;
2. A lack of first-rank scientists;
3. A shortage in the number of people who return to China after they go abroad to study;
4. A lack of innovative research and innovative entrepreneurs.

The program more than doubles the number of people who will be working in biotechnology – from 250,000 to at least 550,000. To encourage innovation, China will have to provide financial support to its innovative companies. We await details on these measures eagerly. ”

Biotech industry in China started in 1984. By 1997, the number of Chinese biotech companies was about 200. In 2000 it was estimated, that the number of Chinese biotech companies increased to 600. In 2005 China’s biotechnology industry increased to 900 modern biotech companies. China’s biotech industry registered sales totaling US$2.4 billion in 2000, compared with US$ 31 million in 1986.

Besides a strong desire to reduce its dependence from oil imports through Bio-fuels, China has another concern. A growing population, climate changes and water shortages and a dependency on foreign food imports are probably the main driving force to establish a Chinese independence in the agricultural sector. China’s Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin stated in July 2006 that science and technology should contribute up to 63% of the growth of Chinese agriculture sector by 2020. The minister outlined five areas that will be the focus of China in attempt to take advantage of biotechnology in agriculture, including GM cotton and rice, safe farm products, agricultural equipments, and research institutions.

The Looming Food Crisis in Asia : The gardens of Beijing

Since 2000 the depletion of China’s main aquifers has led to an overall decrease in grain production, turning China into a net importer. The trend of Chinese dependence on imported food is expected to accelerate as the water shortage worsens. According to Wikipedia “The researcher Lin Erda has stated a projected fall of possibly 14% to 23% by 2050 due to water shortages and other impacts by climate change; China has increased the budget for agriculture by 20% in 2009, and continues to support energy efficiency measures, renewable technology, and other efforts with investments, such as the over 30% green component of the $586bn fiscal stimulus package announced in November 2008.”

Sources: Wikipedia, China Bio Today.

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