TAIWAN HAILS SOARING BIOTECH OUTPUT

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Government sources in Taiwan have confirmed that the country's biotech industry reached a total value of US$4.53bn in 2004. The figures reflect Taiwan's drive to add value to its traditionally generics-dominated drug sector, and also indicate faster than expected progress on development goals for the local industry.

Taiwan's 2002-2008 National Development Plan is focused on the so-called "twin stars" of IT hardware and pharmaceuticals. The government now claims that the biotech sector is growing at some 10% per year, with high-value pharmaceuticals now representing the most significant share of the sector's output, at US$1.88bn — roughly equivalent to 41.5% of the total. Exports of biotech products are also reported to have soared 93% in the first half of 2005.

The results appear to defeat previous assumptions that the biotech sector's annual growth is slowing to around 5%, as well as concerns that development targets are likely to be missed. It now appears that Taiwan's drug firms have successfully used partnerships with large foreign companies to refocus on higher value products for the world market. The change of focus has been timely in view of the ongoing structural crisis in Taiwan's healthcare system, which in the past has nurtured several large homegrown generics makers.