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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

UEM Land, BiotechCorp to form SPV next month

NUSAJAYA: UEM Land Holdings Bhd and Malaysian Biotechnology Corp Bhd (BiotechCorp) will next month sign an agreement to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to undertake the development of a biotech park project.

Known as BioXCell, the project will occupy a 32.37ha site in the Southern Industrial and Logistics Clusters (SiLC) near here.

An aerial view of the Southern Industrial and Logistics Clusters (SiLC) in Nusajaya, Johor Baru. BioXCell will occupy a 32.37ha site in the SiLC. Inset: Zulkifli Tahmali

The 526.10ha SiLC in Nusajaya is being developed by UEM Land as a clean and green, managed industrial park, and has to date attracted RM115mil investments, of which 50% are from foreign companies.

“We are currently in advanced talks to determine the equity for each party in the SPV,” UEM Land strategic marketing and corporate communications director Zulkifli Tahmali told StarBiz.

He said the SPV would have its own board of directors, source its own funding for the project and attract investors to the biotech park.

Zulkifli said UEM Land, as master developer of the 9,600ha Nusajaya, would only focus on its developmental expertise and the management of the project and facilities.

He said it would provide the land and infrastructure for the biotech project while BiotechCorp would bring in the biotech expertise, marketing, regulating and offer incentives to local and foreign biotech companies.

“I personally consider the collaboration a perfect marriage between the two parties,” he said.

He said BioXCell was in a unique position as no other biotech park project in the country was developed on a joint-venture basis between a property developer and the lead agency responsible for developing the biotech industry in Malaysia.

On why the biotech component was now included in the development plan of SiLC, Zulkifli said the company was just being pragmatic in its business undertakings.

“Our biotech park will benefit from its close proximity to Singapore because of the latter’s advanced biotech industry while Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, which is strong in life sciences, offers a ready pool of human capital,” he added.

Zulkifli said the Nusajaya biotech park would play a complementary role to the advanced research and development (R&D) parks in Singapore, namely Biopolis and Tuas Biomedical Park.

He said the company also wanted to bank on the SiLC’s excellent connectivity to the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Johor Port, Senai Airport, North-South Expressway and Singapore’s Port of Singapore, Jurong Port and Changi Airport.

He said ideally, a biotech park should have three main clusters – advanced R&D (drugs discovery), clinical research organisations (CROs) to provide clinical services to the R&D, and contract manufacturers to produce the drug formulations.

“However, not all of them can be in Singapore due to the cost factor and with the tightening of the economy, Johor is the best choice for biotech companies,” said Zulkifli.

He said BioXCell would be the best choice for players involved in biotech-related activities due to its strategic location, competitive cost and close proximity to Singapore with excellent seaport and airport connectivity.

Zulkifli said UEM Land had completed a request for information from a European drug manufacturer planning to set up a plant here and one question was the number of direct weekly flights to London from an airport within an hour’s drive from Johor.

He said it had received queries from established biotech companies from Asia and the United States wanting to consolidate their operations and CROs to set up shop in Johor after learning of the biotech park project.

Zulkifli said Malaysia would be a good choice for the CROs because its three main races – Malays, Chinese and Indians – presented an opportunity for immediate clinical trials for the CROs.

He said the clinical trial results could be applied on several million other Malays in the region, and the one billion Indians and 1.3 billion Chinese in the world.

“Malaysia is also rich in biodiversity, especially our plant species in the centuries-old jungles, that can be developed into pharmaceutical products through R&D initiatives and activities,” said Zulkifli.

By The Star (by Zazali Musa)

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