Biotechnology briefings on each Scorecard country
No matter where a country ranks on the Scientific American Worldview Scorecard, chances are there's something exciting going on in its biotech sector. That thinking spawned our worldVIEWguide, which consists of quantitative and qualitative descriptions of each nation. The quantitative part comes from several sources: general country statistics, our Scorecard and the Nature Index (http:www.natureindex.com)—a database of author affiliation information collated from research articles published in an independently selected group of 68 high-quality science journals. This index also assigns articles to particular categories: chemistry, earth & environmental sciences, life sciences, and physical sciences.
Our guide details every country's Scientific American Worldview Scorecard (SAWV SC) rank, population, gross domestic product (GDP) and the amount of money that it invests in R&D per GDP. A radar plot reveals its performance in the Scorecard categories: Productivity, Intellectual Property (IP) Protection, Intensity, Enterprise Support, Education/Workforce, Foundations, and Policy & Stability. The magnitude on the plots shows the country's score in each category, and the number by the category label indicates its rank (numbers in blue-green represent a tie in rank).
Each description also includes a Nature Index donut, which reflects the relative contribution of its autor affiliations on articles from each category: chemistry (red), earth & environmental sciences (green), life sciences (yellow), and physical sciences (blue). The number inside the donut is the country's weighted fractional count (WFC), which is basically the number of publications that a nation can claim (adjusted for collaboration with authors from other countries and some statistical balancing of the results, which is described more fully on the Nature Index website).
The worldVIEWguide desciptions combine data analysis with comments and news about the local biotech ecosystem. In combination, each entry offers a quick country overview, giving readers a closer look at the latest in biotechnology around the world.
» Select a country below to view their WorldView biotechnology briefing
|Puerto Rico||Qatar||Russia||Saudi Arabia||Singapore||Slovak Republic|
|Spain||South Africa||South Korea||Sweden||Switzerland||Taiwan|
|Thailand||Turkey||Ukraine||United Arab Emirates||United Kingdom||United States|
SAWV SC rank: 1
When it comes to biotechnology, the United States leads the way—topping the Scientific American Worldview Scorecard (SC) since its inception in 2009. In addition, The Biopharmaceutical Investment & Competitiveness (BCI) Survey – 2015, produced by the Pugatch Consilium and described as “a global survey–based index of economies’ biomedical investment-attractiveness,” ranks the United States as number one. The United States tops other indices as well, including the output of articles in the Nature Index 2015 Global, which assesses the contribution of a country’s scientists to publications in top journals. U.S. institutions also made up 26 of the top 50 in the 2015 Nature Index, with the greatest U.S. contribution coming from Harvard University, second only to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Other events also reveal the strength of this industry in the United States. For instance, biotechnology benefits from more molecular tools, such as the added DNA nucleotides—X and Y—used at California-based Synthorx. According to Court Turner, Synthorx’s president and CEO, adding these new bases “expands the genetic code and enables many new amino acids to be incorporated into proteins. This results in an increase in the diversity of therapeutics that can be modified in favorable ways for drug discovery.”
SAWV SC rank: 2
Singapore can boast a top 10 finish throughout the SC’s history, and a top five finish in every year except 2011. It also scores well on other measurements: 15th for output in the Nature Index 2015 Global, with more than half of the publications in chemistry; and fifth on the 2015 BCI index, which stated: “Singapore has relatively strong capabilities in R&D and manufacturing, with most of the necessary regulatory frameworks and safeguards in place and in line with international best practices.” In part, ongoing investment in science and technology explains Singapore’s high ranking. On January 12, 2016, for example, ScienceInsider reported, “The government of Singapore has announced that it plans to spend [US$13.2 billion] on research and development between 2016 and 2020.” In addition, the National University of Singapore opened a US$25 million synthetic biology center on September 30, 2015. Other news reveals the allure of Singapore as an international leader in science. For instance, Rockefeller University plant molecular biologist Nam-Hai Chua announced plans to move his research—exploring plant RNA’s impact on drought tolerance—to Singapore’s Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory. Indeed, Singapore is a go-to country for biotechnology research, as well as for R&D in general.
SAWV SC rank: 3
A perennial top-fiver—taking top three spots every year except 2010—and second to the United States in average finish overall, Denmark earns star billing in the biotechnology world. Surprisingly, however, it does not perform as well on the Nature Index, ranking 21st on the 2015 global list for overall output, with just two of its institutions making the top 200 list. Nonetheless, Danish scientists perform a range of first-class research. Copenhagen-based Genmab contributed to a January 6, 2016, online article for The Lancet, which described a Phase II trial on the use of daratumumab for refractor multiple myeoloma, with this conclusion: “Daratumumab monotherapy showed encouraging efficacy in heavily pretreated and refractory patients with multiple myeoloma, with a favourable safety profile in this population of patients.” Denmark also deserves high ranking in industrial biotechnology, driven largely by Bagsvaerd-based Novozymes, which is predicting 8–10% growth in its net profit in 2016. In January 2016, Novozymes also announced a collaboration with U.S.-based Monsanto to use naturally occurring microbes to increase the harvest from corn. These examples of the breadth of biotechnology expertise in Denmark support its high global ranking in this industry, and its consistent performance should continue.
SAWV SC rank: 4
New Zealand keeps moving up the SC—making a big jump from 18th place in 2010 to third in 2015, and coming in fourth in 2016. According to Will Barker, CEO of NZBIO, “A significant advance for our industry over the last 6 to 12 months has been the increase in capital from various sources flowing into the industry: from seed capital invested at the very early stage [by] government-backed incubator programs and private angel investors to large private investment and significant initial public offerings at the other end of the market.” Several specific events reveal biotechnology’s growth in New Zealand. In December 2015, for example, Z Energy installed a biodiesel distillation column at a plant in Wiri, Auckland, and the plant is expected to start testing in 2016. The fuel source will be inedible tallow, which is a byproduct of the meat industry, and the plant is expected to produce 20 million liters of biodiesel a year to start and scale up to 40 million. In describing the operation, David Binnie, Z Energy’s general manager of supply and distribution, said, “The ability to refine the biodiesel by distillation enables us to use a plentiful local resource to produce high quality biodiesel that exceeds New Zealand’s biodiesel specifications.”
SAWV SC rank: 5
It might be down under geographically, but Australia finished in the SC top five for the past three years. It also produced the 12th highest output on the Nature Index 2015 Global. Experts around the world recognize the biotechnology opportunities in this country, as some events demonstrate. In October 2016, for example, Australia will host BioFest 2016, which is billed as “the largest-ever gathering in Australian life sciences, with three major conferences coming together in one week in one place as one integrated network.” The buildup for the meeting adds: “The event will be a celebration of Australian and international life sciences and highlight Melbourne as one of the world’s great biotech hubs.” The Australian government is also working to highlight the country’s high-tech capabilities. In January 2016, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a public-information plan that will include a US$250 million Biomedical Translation Fund to help publicize and commercialize the country’s research successes. In an announcement of the plan, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne said, “Culture is one of the agenda’s four pillars because Australia must make the cultural shift to being a nation that is more inclined to take a chance on its ideas.”
SAWV SC rank: 6
Although just barely in the global top 100 for population, this small country remains in the top 10 of the SC—with a third-place ranking in Foundations in 2016—and the Nature Index 2015 Global. Moreover, Switzerland landed at third on the 2015 BCI index, which states, “Respondents report that a very effective IP system is in place, both in terms of the legal framework and application on the ground.” The SC agrees, ranking Switzerland high in IP protection. Nonetheless, it could improve its standing in the SC’s Education/Workforce measurement. Still, this country spawns a wide range of successful companies. As examples, the Swiss Biotech Report 2015 points out that “some of the largest Swiss companies such as Nestlé, Novartis, Syngenta or Roche are active within life sciences and act globally.” The report continues: “For many of these multinationals, Switzerland is the hub of their global network of R&D collaborations and manufacturing sites.” The data also show the value of the medical, scientific and technological industries to this country. As the report notes, “The importance of Switzerland as a center for production is illustrated by the fact that in 2014, chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech companies accounted for 41% of total Swiss exports.”
SAWV SC rank: 7
Despite a very low performance in the SC’s Intensity measurement, which basically ranks a country’s efforts in innovative biotechnology, Finland has placed in the top 10 overall since our ranking began in 2009. When it comes to article output, though, its standing slips—taking the 25th spot on the Nature Index 2015 Global and having none of its institutions make the top 200. Still, indicators suggest that Finland keeps growing as a biotechnology leader. In November 2015, ThePharmaLetter reported: “Among the Finnish chemical industry, the pharmaceutical industry was the exports growth driver sector.” It continued: “Between January and August , medicine exports grew by 4% compared with the same period in the preceding year, according to a web posting by the trade group Pharma Industry Finland (PIF).” In addition, Finnish companies have an international appeal. For instance, in January 2016, Accorda Therapeutics, a U.S.-based biotechnology company, agreed to pay US$363 million for Finland-based Biotie Therapies, which is developing drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease—including tozadenant, which is in Phase III clinical trials. With the world’s aging population, such treatments could be needed more and more, especially since Biotie Therapies claims that tozadenant “may also have utility in other CNS disorders.”
SAWV SC rank: 8
Overall, the United Kingdom performs relatively stably on the SC, with an average ranking of 10.1. It also achieved a fourth-place ranking on the Nature Index 2015 Global, and 14 of its institutions made the top 200. The top-placing University of Cambridge finished ninth, and the University of Oxford took 11th. Among the UK’s noted publications, Paul Jarvis of the University of Oxford and one of his colleagues reported in a 2015 issue of Current Biology that a gene, SP1, might be used to help plants survive in stressful environments, such as drought conditions. The United Kingdom fared even better on the 2015 BCI, where it ranked second, with the report stating: “In the view of local executives, an active and ongoing commitment to biomedical innovation on the part of the UK government, on top of a robust and well-established legal and regulatory framework, are among key factors that have allowed the economy to continue to compete for high levels of global biopharmaceutical investment.” Financial indicators also depict a strong biotechnology industry in the country. In October 2015, the UK Bioindustry Association reported: “2014 was the best year to date for investment in the UK bioscience sector, underpinned by government support in early stage life sciences R&D.”
SAWV SC rank: 9
Although Sweden ranked in the SC’s top five for the first three years, 2009 to 2011, it fell to eighth place in 2015 and now comes in at ninth. Still, Sweden finished 15th on the Nature Index 2015 Global, and four of its institutions—Lund University (147th), Uppsala University (159th), Karolinska Institute (176th) and Stockholm University (188th)—made the top 200. As some research in Sweden demonstrates, biotechnology requires wet-lab work plus advanced algorithms and computation, as well as international collaboration. Sweden-based Biovica, for instance, developed DiviTum, an assay that measures rates of cell proliferation, which is a crucial metric in cancer treatments. To make the most of that tool, however, Biovica teamed up with a Swiss company, SimplicityBio, that developed its Biomarker Optimization Software System (BOSS). In combination, these two companies hope to speed up the development of new cancer treatments. Discussing this teamwork, Biovica CEO Anders Rylander said that it will “enable our partners to make more informed decisions earlier in their development process, linking biomarkers to drug efficacy and cell proliferation all the way from the early development to clinical trials.” Indeed, biotechnology innovation moves faster when companies and people team up and combine skill sets.
SAWV SC rank: 10
Rounding out the top 10 on the SC, Canada stays in the same position as last year. But on other indices it makes more dynamic moves, taking sixth place, for example, on the 2015 BCI, which noted Canada’s “…well-established biotechnology base that has seen rapid growth in certain areas of research and manufacturing over the past two decades.” With its University of Toronto coming in 21st on the Nature Index 2015 Global, the nation placed seventh overall. Canada is also making strides toward growing its biotech workforce—something it needs to do, according to the SC. In January 2016, for instance, BioTalent Canada announced a program providing US$1 million in wage subsidies to help 90 citizens with disabilities enter the biotechnology workforce. To increase the number of biotech workers overall, BioTalent Canada runs a Career Focus Program to “pave the way to employment by helping offset the costs of orientation, integration and skills development.” The program takes aim at the industry’s gender imbalances, as women made up 57% of its participants last year.
SAWV SC rank: 11
With a stable and nearly top 10 SC ranking for the past three years, Hong Kong could make a good home for biotech research. Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service’s GAIN (Global Agricultural Information Network) Report in September 2015, “Hong Kong has no commercial production of biotechnology crops, nor does it conduct field trials.” Although scientists in Hong Kong can do laboratory research on genetically engineered (GE) crops, the field trials take place in China. This limits Hong Kong’s capabilities in bioagriculture. However, the report continues: “On the whole, Hong Kong consumers are not concerned about foods containing GE ingredients. There have not been any strong actions in the general public urging the [Hong Kong government] to adopt mandatory labeling for GE foods in recent years. Prices, food safety and nutritional values are of bigger concern in general.” On the SC, Hong Kong ranks low on Intensity and Education/Workforce, suggesting the country could put far greater focus on biotechnology. Some signs indicate a push in the latter, such as an undergraduate degree in biotechnology and business offered at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Ultimately, increasing its biotech efforts is the only way to push Hong Kong up the SC.
SAWV SC rank: 12
After a long stay at 16th place on the SC, from 2009 to 2012, Germany began to ascend in 2013 and now sits at 12th for the second year in a row. And it scores even higher on the Nature Index 2015 Global, taking the third spot, with 17 of its institutions making the top 200 list for overall article output. Part of Germany’s success in biotechnology comes from strong collaborations. In October 2015, for instance, scientists from Germany and Israel published work in Nature Biotechnology on growing liver cells, hepatocytes, in the lab for the first time. The authors concluded: “These results offer a means of expanding human hepatocytes of different genetic backgrounds for research, clinical applications and pharmaceutical development.” German companies seek out such collaborations. In January 2016, for example, the German firm QIAGEN announced its 15th collaboration—this one with U.S.-based Array BioPharma—with biotech and pharmaceutical companies. In QIAGEN’s announcement, CEO Peer M. Schatz said, “The fact that so many pharma and biotech companies have joined with QIAGEN for these co-development projects, including five based on using our innovative liquid biopsy ‘Sample Technologies’ to gain molecular insights from blood, underscores the trust in our ‘Sample to Insight’ solutions.”
SAWV SC rank: 13
For most of the SC’s history, Israel has ricocheted up and down the rankings—coming in fifth in 2009, 22nd in 2014, and jumping from 18th in 2015 to 13th in 2016. For an inside perspective, we turned to Meir Perez Pugatch, managing director of the Pugatch Consilium, to describe the state of biotechnology in Israel, who said: “Israel continues to impressively grow its biopharmaceutical and biotechnology clusters. Recent developments—such as the creation of the new Research and Development Authority, the improvement of regulatory pathways and stronger intellectual property protection—have accelerated the ongoing activities of the bio-clusters in Israel. Accordingly, there is a stronger collaboration between local biotech companies and multinational ones. For example, Novartis has invested in Gamida Cell and BioLine Rx.; Merck-Serono established a bio-incubator capital fund in Israel with a budget of 10 million euros; Compugen has signed a collaboration agreement with Bayer; Samsung started an innovation center in Israel focusing on digital health; Merck has signed a strategic collaboration agreement with the Macabi Heath Fund focusing on areas of big data and real world evidence, et cetera.” This rate of activity should help Israel continue to climb the SC.
SAWV SC rank: 14
The Netherlands has owned the 14th SC spot for the past three years. Apparently, it’s comfortable there, having also taken 14th place on the Nature Index 2015 Global, with five of its institutions making the top 200 list, and all but one of them in the top 100. Dutch leaders, however, are hoping to take biotech activities up a notch, as a government website stated: “The Dutch Government wants to capitalise on the opportunities offered by biotechnology, while keeping a close eye on the risks. One of the main reasons why the Government considers biotechnology a key high-tech area is the contribution it can make to solving problems in the fields of food security, nature conservation, biodiversity and the environment.” The necessary infrastructure to do so is clearly in place there, as the Leiden Bio Science Park is home to 20 drug development companies, 10 medical technology companies, 41 drug development services and 22 business services. Ongoing research at this facility covers a variety of areas: aging, biomedical imaging, oncology, immunity, regenerative medicine, translational neuroscience and others. Having such a broad range of research in the works suggests that the Netherlands can expect many impactful discoveries ahead.
SAWV SC rank: 15
In all but one year, 2010, Japan has ranked in the mid-teens on the SC, seeing an upward swing in the last three years when it rose from 18th to 16th to 15th place. It performs even better in terms of article output, earning the fifth spot overall on the Nature Index 2015 Global, with 10 of its institutions ranking in the top 200, four of which make the top 50. On February 7, 2016, a search on PubMed for the word “biotechnology” among papers with authors affiliated with Japan produced nearly 16,000 hits. These include a February 2016 article in PLoS One in which researchers used microfabricated devices to build neural networks from human induced pluripotent stem cells. The authors wrote that their results “indicate that compartmentalized culture devices are promising tools for reconstructing network-wide connections between [peripheral nervous system] neurons and various organs, and might help to understand patient-specific molecular and functional mechanisms under normal and pathological conditions.” Beyond publishing, other factors are driving Japanese biotech innovation, such as “500 Startups,” a VC project that created a US$30 million fund for biotechnology and healthcare start-ups in Japan. The combination of advanced research and capital goes a long way in biotechnology.
SAWV SC rank: 16
Making the SC’s top 15 every year except two (including 2016), and coming in 29th on the Nature Index 2015 Global, Ireland took fourth place on the 2015 BCI—which put it in the “strongly competitive” category. “Overall respondents found the Irish market to be an attractive destination in the near term,” said the 2015 BCI. And the country’s government is planning to invest more in the industry. Early in 2016, Ireland introduced an initiative providing more than US$5.5 million over five years to fund a Health Innovation Hub. This joint venture, announced by Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, is intended to fuel innovations both in healthcare products and services, connecting health-service companies with innovators. Ireland is also proactive when it comes to IP protection. Even though the country also scores well in this SC metric, it keeps working to improve its performance, recently releasing Inspiring Partnership – National IP Protocol 2016. At the launch of this protocol, Alison Campbell, Director of Knowledge Transfer Ireland, said: “In particular, the IP Protocol offers valuable support that will help increase the number of companies and research performing organizations working together and the number of businesses benefitting from innovation.”
SAWV SC rank: 17
France’s ranking on the SC jumps around more than most, but usually lands in the teens. Its best showing, at eighth place in 2010, is a long way from this year’s position at 17th. The country comes out much better on the Nature Index 2015 Global, taking the sixth spot, with its French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) publishing the third highest number of articles on the index. The volatile nature of biotechnology reared its head earlier this year when Genticel’s Phase II trial of a drug for human papillomavirus stopped prematurely, and the company’s stock immediately dropped 43%. C’est la gare. While some French companies struggle, the French government invests heavily to keep its biotechnology industry strong. The country plans to invest a portion of insurance earnings in innovative biotechnology, and make better use of funds from the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe, the so-called Juncker plan. In discussing this initiative, Pierre-Olivier Goineau, president of France Biotech, said: “The reform of the national insurance system and redirecting funds from the Juncker plan will enable our biotech companies to put France at the forefront of innovation.” This shows how creative policies can help ensure continued funding for this industry, despite its risks.
SAWV SC rank: 18
Over the years, Austria has finished pretty close to its average SC ranking of 19.4, and it performed about the same on the Nature Index 2015 Global, placing 22nd. According to Josef Penninger, senior scientist and scientific director at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology GmbH in Vienna: “Last year was a successful one for the biotech community in Austria. One contributing factor was that for the first time a treatment that has been entirely developed in Austria filed its application for marketing authorization in the EU and has already received Orphan Drug designations from the European Medicines Agency. This is an antibody-based therapy to treat patients suffering from neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer, [and the treatment is] developed by the Austrian biotech company Apeiron in cooperation with the European Children’s Oncology Group—a great and very successful academic-corporate business model. An application for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also already in preparation.” Other promising technologies are also being studied. On January 11, 2016, GEN reported that “investigators from the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, have begun to look at secretome fractions from stem cell culture media as starting material in the development of cell-free therapies for regenerative medicine.”
SAWV SC rank: 19
Just like Austria, Norway’s SC average is 19.4, but it finishes farther down on the Nature Index 2015 Global at 26th, despite a 22.4% increase in published articles on the index from 2013 to 2014. Experts proclaim a range of successes in Norway. For example, The Research Council of Norway website quotes Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, executive director of the council’s division for innovation, as saying, “Norwegian cancer research has attained a very high level. Norway has research groups in this field that are absolutely world class.” She adds, “But it can be challenging to translate good ideas from the laboratory into solutions for the market.” It’s a challenge that all countries face. Beyond healthcare, biotechnology researchers in Norway are exploring other applications. MicroA in Stavanger specializes in algae, having developed a system that turns the microorganisms into factories that can produce, for instance, polysaccharide products. There is even enough research in Norway on microalgae to prompt the Industrial Biotech Network Norway to establish a special interest group on the topic. According to the network, it created SIG Microalgae to strengthen the science base and generate more value for the microalgae-related industry. This kind of breadth in biotechnology applications could make for a more stable industry.
SAWV SC rank: 20
After a four-year run in the mid-teens from 2010 through 2013, Belgium slipped back to hover around the 20th SC position for the past three years. And it ends up just the same on the Nature Index 2015 Global—taking 20th after a 6.6% increase in article output from 2013 to 2014. In addition, Belgium’s University of Leuven made the index’s top 200, landing in 127th place. Researchers at various Belgian institutes, including VIB in Flanders, are focusing on biotechnology. Wout Boerjan of VIB and the University of Ghent recently explored how the structure of wood in a tree impacts its capability of producing bioethanol. “We were able to reduce the levels of lignin, a component of wood, in the poplars through genetic modification,” he explains. “As a result, two other important components of wood—cellulose and hemicellulose—could be converted more efficiently into sugars, and then, by way of fermentation, into bioethanol.” The Ghent Bio-Energy Valley is another example of this country’s investment in bioenergy, studying its creation, distribution, storage and use.
SAWV SC rank: 21
Luxembourg has shown some hustle on the SC over the years, rising from 29th place in 2011 to tenth in 2014, before sinking back to 20th in 2015 and 21st this year. On the Nature Index 2015 Global, the country came in 55th overall. Still, its leaders are striving for a higher international standing in biotechnology. The Luxembourg BioHealth Cluster, for example, focuses on molecular diagnostics research, among other areas of biomedicine, and includes hospitals, investors, laboratories, patient associations, public research organizations and R&D companies. Certain biopharmaceutical firms in Luxembourg are already showing great promise. For example, Complix has developed Alphabodies, which are protein-based treatments that can be designed for autoimmune diseases and cancer. In order to move forward with these proteins, Complix joined forces with New Jersey–based Merck (known outside the United States as MSD), to develop Cell-Penetrating Alphabodies (CPABs) that treat cancer. At the announcement of this collaboration, Complix CEO Mark Vaeck said, “With such a high quality partner, I am confident that Complix will be able to rapidly progress the development of CPAB drug candidates that we will generate against cancer targets of interest to MSD.”
SAWV SC rank: 22
In 2009, Iceland made the SC’s top 10, but it soon fell to the lower 20s. Although it ranked 52nd on the Nature Index 2015 Global, its article output on that index is also declining. Nonetheless, this country keeps trying to improve its capabilities—often by using the seas that surround it. Iceland Ocean Cluster, for instance, hopes to spin-off its existing marine industries into new applications, including ones in biotechnology. Iceland’s high score on the SC’s “business-friendly environment” component should help the country bring in any assistance that it needs to improve its biotechnology ecosystem. Nevertheless, Iceland’s relatively low score in the SC’s Education/Workforce category indicates a need to increase its homegrown experts in order to compete consistently in international biotechnology. In the meantime, Reykjavik-based Matis, a biotech specializing in research and marine biology, recently teamed up with the Invention Development Fund (IDF) for more international exposure. In response to this collaboration, Hordur G. Kristinsson, chief science officer at Matis, said, “We look forward to the ongoing collaboration and to seeing our ideas and inventions commercialized in companies around the world through the work of IDF.”
SAWV SC rank: 23
With an overall average of 22.4 on the SC, Taiwan’s ranking of 23rd in 2016 is just about on par, and it performs even better on the Nature Index 2015 Global, with an 18th place overall ranking and its National Taiwan University landing in the top 100. Moreover, Taiwan advertises its biotechnology capabilities through international events, including BioTaiwan 2016. This will be the 14th annual event, and it will include presentations from companies around the world, as well as one-on-one partnering, seminars and workshops. A large exhibition is also expected, including more than 1,200 booths from 600 companies. On August 20, 2015, Taiwan Today reported, “A wide-ranging development plan targeting Taiwan’s biotechnology-based economy is set to kick off next year, according to Premier Mao Chi-kuo.” The report continued: “Focusing on agriculture, biomedicine, food, health care and medical instruments, the 10 year initiative will potentially expand the scale of the local bioeconomy to NT$4 trillion (US$123.2 billion) in 2026.” With respectable scores on the SC’s Foundations and Enterprise Support categories, Taiwan’s commitment to innovation is clear. Like many other countries, however, Taiwan’s Education/Workforce category shows room for improvement.
SAWV SC rank: 24
In 2012, South Korea slipped to the low 20s on the SC and has stayed in that general range. Surprisingly, this country earned ninth place overall on the Nature Index 2015 Global, and four of its institutions made the top 200. Still, that high publishing ranking does not necessarily coincide with a strong biotechnology industry. On August 27, 2015, the USDA GAIN Report noted: “Only a limited number of food products are made from biotech ingredients due to negative consumer sentiment towards biotechnology, whereas the bulk of livestock feed is made from biotech corn and soybean meal.” The report added: “While sensitivities remain with biotech food, consumers are much more comfortable with nonagriculture uses, such as pharmaceutical treatments. Generating local farmers’ support in adopting and actively using this technology will be key to increasing consumer confidence in biotech food and livestock products.” The government appears ready to fuel that support with programs like the “Future Wealth Business Plan 2016” that points out key fields for investment, including biotechnology and big data, which can drive applications in many areas of science and technology. Only a combination of public and private interests can fully empower a country’s biotechnology field.
SAWV SC rank: 25
With a population of about the same size as that of New Hampshire, Estonia manages a very respectable mid-20s spot on the SC, with an average of 27.7, pushed up by a 38th place ranking in 2014. Even its 43rd spot on the Nature Index 2015 Global looks good for this small country, and it climbed 68.1% in its index output from 2013 to 2014. Over the years, other sources have taken note of Estonia’s biotech focus. In 2001, Nature Biotechnology reported: “The Estonian government is looking to biotechnology as a main driver for the country’s economic growth, turning its back on more traditional non-high-technology industries.” And that effort appears to be continuing, as CEbiotech.com stated recently that Estonia is one of the leading biotechnology countries in eastern Europe, quoting Eneli Oitmaa, CEO of Estonian-based Asper Biotech, saying the “general problem still is … that there are not enough entrepreneurs with experience in biotech or healthcare. Fortunately, some of the entrepreneurs and CEOs are starting new companies and they are way more experienced and networked than years ago.” Many other countries, including the United States, ran into similar trouble when biotechnology executives lacked adequate business training, and tried to survive on their science expertise alone.
SAWV SC rank: 26
After a fairly rough start on the SC at 40th place in 2013, the United Arab Emirates has finished in the high 20s for the past three years. Despite a 32.2% increase in output of articles in the Nature Index 2015 Global, it only reached 57th place overall. However, a variety of efforts currently in progress in the United Arab Emirates could bolster its publishing output. In 2014, for instance, the United Arab Emirates University and the Ministry of Presidential Affairs created the Khalifa Center for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology, where scientists apply biotechnology and genetics to desert plants to make them better able to endure and prosper in dry, hot and salty conditions. U.A.E. scientists are also deeply involved in other areas of biotechnology. On November 2, 2015, at the Reproductive Biotechnology Centre in Dubai, Injaz the Camel gave birth to a female calf, which seems ordinary enough, except for the fact that six-year-old Injaz was a clone, making her the first ever cloned camel to give birth. U.A.E. experts report that more work is underway in this area. But to innovate across the biotech industry, the United Arab Emirates needs to raise its percentage of R&D workers, because—as has been written here many times—biotechnology innovation demands highly trained personnel.
SAWV SC rank: 27
In most years since 2011, Malaysia ranked in the high 20s on the SC. According to Ganesh Kishore, CEO of the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund: “The country continues to actively invest in biotech. The private sector and especially the large-cap private sector is investing in innovation both directly and indirectly—via venture capital firms. Two areas deserve special recognition. One, Sentinext, the vaccine-development company, has advanced its virus-like particle, or VLP, platform for enteroviruses to the Phase I clinical trial stage. This is a first for a Malaysian company and one of the few companies with a platform VLP technology. Second, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, in collaboration with U.S.-based Orion Genomics, has made a substantial breakthrough in understanding the mantling phenotype in oil palm. The technology is critical to eliminating off types at early stages of clonal propagation of oil palm.” He adds, “Despite the rapid decline in global commodity prices and the depreciation of the Ringgit against the U.S. dollar, Malaysian leadership continues to invest in life science entities. It is a testament to the level of commitment by the leadership of the country and its business community. It also acknowledges that the country needs to offer innovation based–value added offerings to be globally competitive.”
SAWV SC rank: 28
After starting out at 42nd place on the SC in 2013 and rising to 22nd in 2015, Qatar drops back this year to 28th, and takes the 66th spot on the Nature Index 2015 Global. Distressing environmental changes affecting Qatar may force it to ramp up its biotech focus. On August 31, 2015, for example, phys.org reported: “High sea temperatures off the coast of Qatar threaten precious coral reef and have caused mass deaths among some 20 types of fish.” Qatar University scientists, working with the ministries of the environment and the interior, conducted the study behind the claim. The water temperatures have raised concern among some marine biologists about the reef, and impacts on fish in the area could force the country to turn to farm fishing or intensify its search for ways to reduce the water temperatures. To generate more experts to take on these problems, local education programs should increase their efforts. For instance, U.S.-based Carnegie Mellon University runs a “Biotechnology Explorer Program” in Qatar consisting of one-day workshops that offer participants “hands-on experience carrying out protein extractions from food items and conducting colorimetric and spectrophotometric techniques in a real lab.” No country can afford to miss any opportunity to train more people in biotechnology.
SAWV SC rank: 29
Spanish scientists published enough articles in the Nature Index 2015 Global to earn the country tenth place globally, while two Spanish institutions made the top 200: the Spanish National Research Council, which came in 27th, and the University of Barcelona, which took the 186th spot. Plus, the eighth BioSpain, taking place September 2016, promises to be bigger and better than the great event attended by one of our own in 2010 (see “Running with the Bulls,” Scientific American Worldview, 2011). When asked about recent developments supporting Spanish biotech, Albert Barberà, director general of Biocat, says, “There are currently some important changes that will reshape biomedical research and innovation in Catalonia.” One is Barcelona-based EIT Health. This large healthcare initiative “promotes entrepreneurship and innovation in healthy living and active aging, with the aim to improve quality of life and healthcare across Europe,” Barberà says. In addition, the Catalan government’s Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation “will pave the way towards a knowledge-based economy, helping and promoting all the biotech and medtech industry and innovation.” He also explains that during 2015, the Catalan government launched the Knowledge Industry Programme, which will drive “the creation of new companies and start-ups.”
SAWV SC rank: 30
Coming in 30th, the Czech Republic continues its SC upswing that began last year, when it moved from 34th place in 2014 to 32nd. Even better, it ranks 27th on the Nature Index 2015 Global. In April, raising its biotech profile, Prague hosted the International Conference on Nanobiotechnology (ICNB’16), which aims to become “the leading annual conference in fields related to nanobiotechnology.” So far, the Czech Republic itself has a way to go in this field, as a search on PubMed on February 11, 2016, for Czech authors of articles mentioning nanobiotechnology returned only 10 hits. Nonetheless, the same search for authors in the United States only produced 58 articles. Among the Czech studies published was an article in Science of the Total Environment, describing how scientists applied nanobiotechnology to remediate contaminated groundwater. For biotechnology in general, the Czech search revealed 626 articles, including a study in Pharmaceutical Biology of antimicrobial applications of flavonoids from fruits, using DNA fragmentation analysis, from which the authors concluded: “This work demonstrates anti-[methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] and antileishmanial potential of geranylated flavanones and uncovers their promising synergistic activities with antibiotics. In addition, the mechanism of antileishmanial effect is proposed.”
SAWV SC rank: 31
After five years in the mid- to upper-20s on the SC, Portugal dropped into the low 30s in 2014, and that’s where it remains. The nation performs about the same on the Nature Index 2015 Global, where it landed at 28th. Efforts in the country aim to raise its standing in agricultural biotechnology. For example, Portugal’s Centre for Information on Biotechnology and the University of Coimbra organized a fifth meeting on agrobiotechnology to explore the science and socioeconomic aspects of genetically modified crops and food products. Portugal has its sights set on other areas of biotechnology as well. A recent paper in the Journal of Biotechnology by a team of scientists from Germany, Portugal and Spain described a metabolic model of Chinese hamster ovary cells—CHO cells, which are used in many studies. “The proposed methodology manages to provide a sustained and robust growth in CHO cells, increasing productivity while simultaneously increasing biomass production, product titer, and keeping the concentrations of lactate and ammonia at low values,” they wrote. “The approach presented here can be used for optimizing metabolic models by finding the best combination of targets and their optimal level of up/down-regulation. Furthermore, it can accommodate additional trade-offs and constraints with great flexibility.”
SAWV SC rank: 32
Chile performs about the same on the SC and the Nature Index 2015 Global, taking the 31st and 32nd spots, respectively. Its output on the publishing index, however, increased by 26.1% from 2013 to 2014. Not everyone, though, is impressed by Chile’s recent biotechnology efforts. A 2015 USDA GAIN Report noted: “Agricultural biotechnology is not a priority for Chile’s current Administration…. Regardless of its lack of having a biotech framework and restricting planting and commercialization of genetically engineered crops, Chile accepts all imports and does not require genetically engineered products to be labeled. Commercially, Chile could be a viable producer of transgenic sugar beets, corn, and alfalfa.” But there is some evidence of progress in Chilean biotech. Alejandro Dinamarca, of the University of Valparaiso, and his colleagues developed a food additive, based on marine bacteria, that reduces the amount of antibiotics used in farming salmon. “Unlike antibiotics this approach is innovative in that it does not generate resistance and does not harm the environment,” Dinamarca said in July 16, 2015, in Aquaculture North America. “Thus, productivity, food security, and added value is increased.”
SAWV SC rank: 33
Lithuania’s low- to mid-30s ranking on the SC over the years surpasses its 47th place showing on the Nature Index 2015 Global. Although the country did improve by almost 50% on its Nature Index output between 2013 and 2014, its low article count was the reason for such a large percentage advance without the adding of very many publications. Some sources expect ongoing improvements from this country. For instance, Invest Lithuania’s website states: “Lithuania’s life sciences industry has skyrocketed over the last two decades and is now regarded as one the most advanced in Central and Eastern Europe.” The site adds, “Annual growth within the biotechnology and pharmaceutical research and production sector is 22%, and with 80% of its output exported, the sector’s reach is truly global.” An international reputation in biotechnology also depends on original research. In the January 2016 Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, for example, Lithuanian scientists described the synthesis of flu proteins from yeast to study immunological activity. Also, in the January 2016 International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, Lithuanian scientists joined one from Turkey in a report on how a chitosan coating adds shelf life to red kiwifruit, which is typically too fragile for commercial use. This breadth, medical and agricultural biotechnology, contributes to a basis for growth.
SAWV SC rank: 34
Despite a very low score in the SC Intensity category, the Slovak Republic increases one spot this year to 34th. That’s considerably better than its 50th showing on the Nature Index 2015 Global. Despite that low output on the Nature Index, a PubMed search on February 20, 2016, for articles by Slovakian scientists that include the word biotechnology returned 120 results. Many of those studies pertain to agricultural biotechnology. For instance, Slovakian scientists published a 2016 article in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B on antimicrobial and antioxidants in bee pollen, and they concluded: “The best antifungal activity of the sunflower bee pollen was found in the frozen bee pollen extracts against Aspergillus ochraceus and freeze-dried bee pollen extracts against Aspergillus niger.” Another group of Slovakian scientists published a study on the impact of drought on wheat’s metabolism and the activity of specific proteins in the September 2015 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, and the scientists showed that profiling the “pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins revealed that chitinases … and glucanases … were activated in wheat by drought” and that drought turns on wheat’s “protective action against oxidative stress and dehydration of the leaves.”
SAWV SC rank: 35
Since 2011, South Africa’s SC ranking has bobbed mostly in the mid-30s, and it earned 35th place on the 2016 SC and the Nature Index 2015 Global. That’s about as stable as a country can be. The USDA GAIN Report on July 14, 2015, indicated additional consistency: “The production area of Genetically Engineered (GE) crops in South Africa was unchanged in 2014, at 2.9 million hectares, making South Africa the ninth largest producer of GE crops in the world and by far the largest in Africa.” This report also points out a few advances: “South Africa approved three new GE events for general release in 2014, which included two corn stacked events. Twenty-five field or clinical trials permits were also authorized in 2014, including the long-awaited drought tolerance in corn.” In addition, on August 23, 2015, SABC News reported: “South Africa has a lot to offer in the field of Biotechnology and it is showing significant growth prospects.” The story attributed that growth to “a number of factors such as … a healthy pipeline of innovative biotechnologies” and “good regulatory guidelines that are on par with those of other international regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMEA).”
SAWV SC rank: 36
In the past three years Poland has failed to meet its SC average ranking of 34.9, although it climbs up three spots, to 36th, from its position at 39th in 2014 and 2015. Coming in 34th on the Nature Index 2015 Global, it just about equals its SC average. The country’s participation in agrobiotechnology appears uncertain, as a 2015 USDA GAIN Report noted: “On February 6, 2014 the Polish President signed an amendment to the Act on genetically modified organisms introducing stricter rules to ensure greater safety associated with the cultivation and use of genetically modified organisms in laboratories…. In January 28, 2013 the Polish government banned the cultivation of EU-approved GE Mon-810 maize and the Amflora potato through an amendment to the Polish Seed Act.” And more bans lie ahead. The GAIN Report adds: “Currently Poland continues to import feeds enhanced through biotechnology. On January 1, 2017, a ban on the import of such feed is scheduled to enter into force.” In other areas of biotechnology, however, certain Polish companies hope to seek more international opportunities. For example, Krakow-based Selvita—Poland’s largest biotech—opened a facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to expand its work in drug discovery.
SAWV SC rank: 37
After dropping to 41st—more than eight places below its SC average of 32.8—Hungary climbs to 37th this year. In addition, Hungary’s 43% increase in article output earns 37th place on the Nature Index 2015 Global. On February 12, 2016, a search for Hungarian authors on articles including the word biotechnology revealed 1,025 hits on PubMed. On the Stem Cells International website in late 2015, for instance, scientists from Hungary and Denmark described the derivation of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and grew them in a three-dimensional environment, instead of traditional two-dimensional tissue culture. “In this study,” the authors wrote, “we determined that culturing iPSC-derived NPCs as three-dimensional (3D) floating neurospheres resulted in increased expression of the neural progenitor cell (NPC) markers, PAX6 and NESTIN. Expansion of NPCs in 3D culture methods also resulted in a more homogenous PAX6 expression when compared to 2D culture methods.” Using a more natural environment also increased other markers. The scientists concluded that their “3D propagation method could constitute a useful tool to promote NPC homogeneity and also to increase the differentiation potential of iPSC towards astrocytes.” This work supports the value in biotechnology of creating the most natural study environment whenever possible.
SAWV SC rank: 38
Italy’s rank on the SC continues its gradual downward slide. The country is particularly weighed down by its Enterprise Support and Foundations scores. Although it ranked 11th on the Nature Index 2015 Global, Italy’s numbers are decreasing there, as well. Its overall output on the Nature Index dropped by 3% from 2013 to 2014, and its leading institution—the National Research Council—experienced a 13.1% decrease in its publications on the Nature Index from 2013 to 2014. Still, some indicators show promise for Italy’s biotechnology industry. A December 2015 USDA GAIN Report stated: “Again, this year, Italy’s biotechnology industry is characterized as a dynamic and promising sector, despite the difficult economic situation that biotech companies have to confront on a daily basis.” It added: “Italy has a large and profitable biotech industry operating in the medical, industrial, and agricultural sector, ranking 3rd in Europe in the number of pure biotech companies.” Although this report indicated that 57% of Italy’s biotechnology companies work on healthcare, Italian scientists also contributed to the recent sequencing of the globe artichoke, which can be eaten or turned into biofuel. So it’s clear Italian scientists are working across the range of biotechnology.
SAWV SC rank: 39
Although Latvia debuted on the SC at 44th in 2012 and dropped to 50th in 2013, it’s ranked in the upper 30s for the past three years. On the Nature Index 2015 Global, however, its publishing output gave it a 77th ranking globally. Its publishing in biotechnology doesn’t look any better. A search of PubMed for Latvian authors on articles using the word biotechnology only turned up 12 examples in 2015. In comparison, the same search for U.S. authors found 2,586 articles. Some industry experts, though, see promise for biotechnology in Latvia. For example, Juris Vanags—founder and CEO of Riga-based Biotehniskais Centrs, which makes bioreactors—thinks that Latvia can improve its position by developing more infrastructure to connect biotechnology research with business, which he pointed out at the BioForum 2015 in Wroclaw. Like other smaller players in biotechnology, Latvia’s scientists benefit from international collaborations on research. For instance, Latvian authors worked with colleagues from Poland and the Slovak Republic in an article in the January 2016 Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B, which described using the polymerase chain reaction on wine to isolate lactic-acid bacteria that causes the beverage to spoil. Such collaborations increase opportunities in countries still building a biotechnology industry.
SAWV SC rank: 40
Averaging 36.3 on the SC, Saudi Arabia comes in about the same on the Nature Index 2015 Global, with a ranking of 38th. Given those numbers, it comes as a bit of a surprise that a search of PubMed found 382 articles in 2015 with authors from Saudi Arabia that included the word biotechnology. Its comparatively low output on the Nature Index suggests that many of the articles come from collaborations with authors in other countries. In the February 2016 Trends in Microbiology, for example, scientists with affiliations in Germany, Portugal and Saudi Arabia explored trends in microbiology education and training at the European Microbial Resource Centers, and they concluded: “Urgent adjustments are needed to match users’ needs, integrate innovative programs, and adopt new technologies.” Other areas of this country’s biotechnology could also use some adjustment. As a June 2015 USDA GAIN Report pointed out: “Currently, there are no ongoing commercial development activities for genetically engineered (GE) plants in Saudi Arabia.” Although this report mentioned work on GE seeds at some of the country’s universities, it added, “no new GE plants or crop varieties have been developed thus far by these universities that may be commercialized in the next few years.”
SAWV SC rank: 41
Despite no significant change in China’s SC rank since 2014, it finishes second on the Nature Index 2015 Global. Indicating even higher publishing performance, its output on the Nature Index grew by 16% from 2013 to 2014, and 23 of its institutes made the top 200—including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which ranked first and surpassed second-place Harvard University’s output by more than 50%. Still, other indicators—including the SC—show that publishing volume alone does not create a leader in biotechnology. The 2015 BCI ranked China’s position as a “struggling ability to compete,” and added: “In terms of R&D, local executives say that much more is required in terms of building the scientific research base and infrastructure.” Like the inconsistent performance in these areas, other biotechnology-related factors suggest conflicting indications. For example, a December 2015 USDA GAIN Report noted: “China is one of the largest producers of biotech cotton in the world. It is also the world’s largest importer of biotech crops, but it has not yet approved any major biotech food crops for cultivation. The Chinese government is in the process of revising its biotechnology regulatory system and is reportedly preparing to push ahead with the commercialization of biotech corn.”
SAWV SC rank: 42
Despite ranking below its average for the past three years, Greece can appreciate its slow upward movement since 2014. It performed better on the Nature Index 2015 Global where it claimed 33rd. Moreover, some Greek scientists’ recent work appeared in high-impact publications, including a January 2016 article in Nature Communications about the role of the protein CDC6, or cell division cycle 6, in the replication of DNA. As the authors—from Denmark, Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom—wrote: “Maintenance of genome stability requires that DNA is replicated precisely once per cell cycle … however, it is poorly understood how CDC6 activity is constrained in higher eukaryotes.” This international team of researchers revealed the molecular processes behind this protein’s role in copying DNA. On another international team, scientists from Greece and Japan explored the role of genes involved in colorectal cancer, and in the January 2016 Oncotarget these scientists described a method that could turn a cancer-related gene into a treatment. This is another example of the potential of turning natural systems into defense against disease, and the value of biotechnology to help scientists explore and modify systems to improve lives around the world.
SAWV SC rank: 43
Since 2011, a finish in the low 40s has been the best that Mexico could muster, but it showed more promise on the Nature Index 2015 Global, with a ranking of 34th and an increase in its article output of almost 10% from 2013 to 2014. Still, Mexico performed poorly on the 2015 BCI, which rated the country as having a “limited ability to compete.” Nonetheless, Mexico outscored all of the BRICs—Brazil, Russia, India and China—on the 2015 BCI. However, the country’s agrobiotechnology industry was further thwarted when, as noted in an August 2015 USDA GAIN Report, “a federal judge effectively suspended the plantings of all GE corn in Mexico by placing a provisional injunction against all such plantings with no clear timeline for solution after almost two years.” Concerns about Mexico’s corn crop were also expressed by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), which recently wrote: “It is hoped that Mexico will adopt a national, science-based strategy that will protect the centers of origin of maize, and will ensure that Mexico will benefit from biotech maize which can contribute to national food security and mitigate new challenges, such as more frequent and severe droughts.”
SAWV SC rank: 44
Russia’s SC ranking improves again this year, moving up three places. On the Nature Index 2015 Global, an increase of 7.5% in publishing from 2013 to 2014 helped the country capture 19th overall, and the Russian Academy of Sciences ranked 48th in the world’s institutes. In the 2015 BCI, however, Russia finished third from the bottom and was categorized as having a “struggling ability to compete.” The BCI report added: “Though biopharmaceuticals are one of the Russian government’s strategic innovation priorities, Russia lacks many of the framework conditions necessary to achieve its industrial and innovation objectives. From the perspective of local executives there is only rudimentary quality control of biomedical products across most clinical and manufacturing phases—leaving the market largely out of sync with international standards.” The BCI report also noted: “The market access environment is challenging and enforcement of IP rights and anti-counterfeiting actions are quite weak.” Some local sources, however, hope for a growing industry. On July 31, 2015, The Russian Times reported that Russia’s BIO2020 program aims for global competitiveness in three areas of biotechnology: energy, industry and medicine. Given Russia’s IP rating on the SC and the 2015 BCI, however, improving its global reputation will take some work.
SAWV SC rank: 45
Between 2014 and 2016, Thailand bounced around the 40s in the SC rankings—from low to high and back to the mid-40s. Even so, this is a far better showing than its bottom-of-the-list performance in 2013. Similarly, Thailand ranked 42nd on the Nature Index 2015 Global. On the plus side, its National Biotechnology Policy Framework aims to push the country much higher as an international force in the industry. In particular, that framework seeks to improve biotechnology education and training. Among the SC categories, Thailand already performs the best in Education/Workforce, and the government’s plans could improve that capability even more. Experts are applauding Thailand’s efforts so far, and express tempered optimism about its future prospects. A September 2015 USDA GAIN Report stated: “Thailand made some progress in 2015 on laying out a draft regulatory framework on adopting agricultural biotechnology. Thai biotech proponents are likely to gain more support from policy makers in both government and parliament. However, it may take a few years to revoke a ban on biotech field trials in the country.” Like many other countries that perform poorly on the SC, Thailand needs to drastically improve its IP Protection, as well as its reputation in the SC category of Policy & Stability. A strong biotechnology industry must do well in these areas.
SAWV SC rank: 46
Turkey’s SC ranking has hovered in the mid-40s over the past four years, showing no real trend up or down. On the Nature Index 2015 Global, Turkey ranked 36th, and it produced a 34% increase in publishing output from 2013 to 2014. Despite that increase, more biotechnology-specific measurements of publishing are less encouraging. In 2015, Turkish authors were involved in just 241 articles that included the word biotechnology, according to a PubMed search. Moreover, the 2015 BCI rated Turkey as having a “struggling ability to compete”—landing at the bottom of that index with the BRICs. The BCI report also noted: “Civil and criminal remedies for IP infringement are seen as fairly ineffective, particularly on the ground.” Still, Turkey pushes ahead in some areas of biotechnology. In November 2015, for example, the country approved six new genetically modified corn varieties and two new ones for soybeans. As these indicators suggest, Turkey faces a broad challenge if it wants to compete globally in biotechnology. In fact, its ranking on all of the SC categories fall into the bottom half of the countries included, and in all but one of the categories Turkey is ranked in the bottom fourth. That creates plenty of room for improvement.
SAWV SC rank: 47
An SC ranking slide for Brazil started in 2014, when it dropped from 36th to 45th, and then it lost another spot each of the next two years—putting it at it all-time low of 47th in 2016. Unfortunately, the news from the 2015 BCI index, where it finished last, is just as bad. The BCI report stated: “Despite holding strong aspirations for growing its biopharmaceutical and biotech sectors, Brazil still has a long way to go to reach its potential for investment. In the view of local executives, the economy’s regulatory system is fraught with delays and red tape.” The report went on: “Widespread, draconian price controls hinder market access. Moreover, the IP system, particularly the patenting process, is bureaucratic and generally ineffective.” The SC shows Brazil’s desire, because it ranks near the top quarter for Intensity, which is the SC category that gives the best indicator of how hard a country works at creating the necessary environment for innovative biotechnology. In every other SC category, however, Brazil ranks in the bottom fourth. Indeed the country finishes third from last, in fact, in Enterprise Support. The good news is that this leaves Brazil with many avenues to climb the SC.
SAWV SC rank: 48
In some ways, Puerto Rico’s biggest challenge is exposure—being seen as a place that’s interested in biotechnology. Having joined the SC in 2013, this year it plummets from the 31st spot to 48th. Moreover, a lack of data keeps Puerto Rico from being measured in three of the seven SC categories. It might be easy to argue that more data would not paint a better biotechnology picture for Puerto Rico. Its scientists published just 13 biotechnology-related articles in 2015, based on a PubMed search. Granted, many relevant articles might not include that word, but the exercise still serves as a helpful metric; the same search for Malta—one of the world’s smallest countries—revealed seven articles. Those biotechnology articles that did include Puerto Rican authors were produced by large international teams. For example, an article on plant immunity—specifically the role of poly(ADP-ribose) glycohydrolase (PARG)—in the January 2015 PLoS Genetics included two authors from Puerto Rico, five from the United States and two from Brazil. At present, international collaboration might be Puerto Rico’s best strategy for advertising its biotechnology aspirations.
SAWV SC rank: 49
If effort alone equated with success in biotechnology, India might top the SC and other indices. At the end of 2015, India released a new National Biotechnology Development Strategy, and some of its key goals included generating biotechnology products, increasing bio-manufacturing and producing biofuels. In fact, Shell India Markets plans to build a biofuel plant in Bangalore. Its 13th place ranking on the Nature Index 2015 Global suggests that some of India’s efforts are paying off. Also, on January 8, 2016, an online article from Nature Biotechnology reported: “Most new companies emerging in the GM field are based in the United States and in Asia, especially India, whereas public developers of the technology are appearing in India and China.” Nonetheless, the 2015 BCI described India as facing a “struggling ability to compete,” and noted: “India possesses the foundation and potential for becoming a hub of biopharmaceutical innovation—but currently faces several major structural barriers to moving up from the bottom ranks in biomedical competitiveness. Local executives particularly noted the presence of major regulatory deficiencies and bottlenecks and very limited coverage of medicines, even with costs driven down. In addition, they highlighted major gaps in India’s biopharmaceutical IP protection that render the system overall ineffective.”
SAWV SC rank: 50
For the past four years, the Philippines ranked 51st or 50th on the SC, a bit below its overall average. This country also dropped—by 45%—on its publishing output on the Nature Index from 2013 to 2014. The news, however, is not all bad. A July 2015 USDA GAIN Report calls the Philippines “a regional biotechnology leader and a model for science-based GE regulatory policy.” The report added: “GE corn has been on sale in the country since 2003, and comprised a fourth of total corn area in 2014.” That trend might slow down as the country’s Supreme Court and government agencies battle about the future of GE crops and foods. On December 27, 2015, SciDev.net reported that the Philippine Supreme Court’s decision to ban some GE crops “may have derailed the steady march to acceptance of GMOs in the Asia-Pacific region.” Other sources agree. The GAIN Report, for example, concluded: “According to experts, further delays in commercializing Philippine GE research are expected to erode the country’s GE regional leadership status, and in general terms, may dampen the long term competitiveness of Philippine agriculture.” Furthermore, basic biotechnology capabilities require attention in the Philippines, as indicated by the SC categories
SAWV SC rank: 51
Arelative newcomer to the SC, Kuwait joined the list in 2013, and it’s landed in the bottom five half the time, including this year. Some scientists in Kuwait, however, envision a stronger local biotechnology industry. Kuwait University’s Biotechnology Center, for example, provides a home for research that ranges from clinical projects to environmental studies. Known around the world as an oil exporter—which generates nearly US$100 billion, according to OPEC—some of the country’s work in biotechnology reflects that economic driver. A 2014 article in Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology from scientists at Kuwait University described how biofilms—enriched with microorganisms from sewage—could be used in environmental remediation of hydrocarbons. The authors wrote: “Biofilm samples were established on glass slides by submerging them in oil-free and oil-containing sewage effluent for a month…. It was concluded that man-made biofilms based upon sewage microflora are promising tools for bioremediation of hydrocarbons contaminating sewage effluent.” Kuwait’s low ranking in IP protection on the SC, however, creates an impediment to companies from other countries performing research and manufacturing in the country. The country—finishing second from last on the SC’s Education/Workforce category—also needs to train more people in biotechnology to create a sustainable industry.
SAWV SC rank: 52
To build an innovative ecosystem for biotechnology, Indonesia needs a range of improvements, from IP Protection to creating a trained workforce. Its ongoing low SC ranking, as well as its tiny output on the Nature Index 2015 Global, portrays the need for investment—financial and human—before it can even start to compete on an international level in science and technology, especially biotechnology. In some areas of biotechnology, in particular, Indonesia remains largely on the sidelines. A July 2015 USDA GAIN Report, for instance, revealed: “At present, there are no imported or locally developed commercial GE seed varieties approved for planting in Indonesia.” Nonetheless, the report added that Indonesia’s government “and local universities are extensively researching a number of GE varieties including virus resistance for tomatoes and potatoes, delayed ripening for papaya, sweet potato pest resistance, and drought tolerant rice. As well, some Indonesian researchers have begun to focus on GE animals for genotyping or genetic markers of Indonesian local livestock, such as poultry, bali cattle and sheep.” Despite that ongoing research, the USDA stated that “practical applications in Indonesia for GE animals and animal products are still very long-term.” Indonesia’s performance on the SC also depicts a need for long-term goals.
SAWV SC rank: 53
Finishing second from last on the SC for the past three years, Ukraine faces a long battle to gain ground in international biotechnology. IP Protection, in particular, creates a difficult obstacle, and one in need of attention soon. As an August 2015 USDA GAIN Report indicated: “The Intellectual Property Rights protection policy for GE events has not yet been developed in Ukraine.” The report went so far as to add that biotechnology in general “was not given much attention in Ukraine in 2014–early 2015 because political and economic issues took priority.” In some respects, though, the country appears to be attempting to patch some of the problems. For example, the GAIN Report declared: “The biotechnology regulatory system in Ukraine is still not fully developed, but the country has committed itself towards shaping its policy in line with European Union standards.” Ukraine also showed some evidence of moving forward when it registered Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready soybeans for use in feed. Allowing biotechnology crops could feed more animals and people, which could be very helpful since one goal of the UNDP, the development arm of the United Nations, is to “eradicate extreme hunger and poverty” in Ukraine.
SAWV SC rank: 54
Although much of Argentina’s biotechnology news is not good, there are some positive signs. First, the bad: It finished last on the SC for the past three years, with low scores across the categories. The 2015 BCI report added more evidence of the need for improvement by categorizing the country as having a “limited ability to compete,” ranked just above the BRICs and Turkey. The BCI pointed out part of Argentina’s IP problem—it has “very low levels of professional and institutional capacity for patent examination.” All of that said, Argentina excels in raising biotechnology crops. According to ISAAA’s latest data: “Argentina maintained its ranking as the third largest producer of biotech crops in the world in 2014, occupying 13% of 181.5 million hectares of global biotech crop hectarage.” For several crops—corn, cotton and soybeans—biotech versions made up most if not all of the plantings: 80%, 100% and 100%, respectively. That reliance on biotechnology-based crops generates large financial returns. As ISAAA noted: “Argentina’s benefits from biotech crops from 1996 to 2013 is estimated at US$17.5 billion, and the benefits for 2013 alone is estimated at US$1.9 billion.” That is all very good news!