TCELS is a non-profit, government organization established in 2004 by royal decree from the King of Thailand. Its establishment
followed the development and execution of a strategic and innovation-based private public partnership (PPP) between the US-ASEAN
Business Council and 12 of its member companies. Today, TCELS mostly plays the role of a one-stop service center helping investors
to do overseas outsourcing. 25 years ago, Thailand already had sufficient research and development infrastructure to qualify
as an international center for genetic engineering and biotechnology.
Biotechnology leads the drive toward a knowledge-based economy
Public-private sector cooperation is adding strength to the industry. New incentives in drug discovery, stem cell, DNA, and
genomics research all underscore the potential being realized and the investment value in Thailand's biotechnology sector.
"Since we assessed the potential of this field, we have created some bio-investment incentives," explained Satit Chanjvavnakul,
secretary general of the Thai Board of Investment (BOI).
Incentives to invest in Thailand are offered in two forms: tax and non-tax. The BOI also offers new corporate income tax exemptions
for the pharmaceutical industry ranging from five to eight years. "BOI is really committed to enhancing biotech and building
a knowledge-based economy in the Kingdom," said Satit.
The BIOTEC breakthrough
Biotechnology is definitely a priority sector for the country. Thailand has set a target to become a center of biotechnology
research and development in Asia with the goal of investing more than $125 million and establishing more than 100 new companies
in the field. Operating under the oversight of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Thailand's
National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) supports development in biotechnology through conducting
research and development projects, facilitating the transfer of technologies from overseas, and promoting public understanding
of the benefits of biotechnology.
"When we started the National Center 23 years ago, we focused on building the infrastructure and developing human resources,"
noted Dr. Morakot Tanticharoen, director of BIOTEC. "We started out by setting up a medically specialized laboratory in collaboration
with Mahidol University. That was where we started our activities in medical biotechnology. Since then, we have given 700
scholarships for our academics to go abroad and gain expertise."
The Biotec building
Reinforcing biotechnological development, Thailand has formulated the National Biotechnology Policy Framework in line with
the government's policy of promoting self-sufficiency and enhancing the country's competitiveness. Two years into the program,
the results are, to Dr. Morakot, entirely fulfilling. "With the top guys in the committee, we can really push to make things
happen. We have the full support of the most important bodies in the government and we can get agreements on the things we
consider essential to boost biotechnology in the country. For example, when we suggested to the government that we needed
to set up a biopark to foster Foreign Direct Investment [FDI] and research and development, the government approved the budget
so that the Thai Biopark attracts more MNCs."
The Thai Biopark
The Thailand Science Park is the major physical manifestation of Thailand's commitment to research and development in science
and technology. Today, out of 60 companies in the park, 17 are involved in biotech. "Our park is divided into two parts.
One we call 'the incubator' where companies can rent space in the building, or at our pilot plant, to set up their lab using
their own people. The second one is where they build their own research center," explained Dr. Morakot.