Biotechnology and synthetic biology have the potential to help cure diseases, fight poverty, and improve the environment. The power of this field is being recognized worldwide, and countries are cultivating their local biotech and synthetic biology sectors.
China is Determined to be a Key Player in the Biotech Industry
China is no exception. Already between 2000 and 2005, the biotech industry in China grew at 30 percent annually.
Following Obama’s 2009 announcement to devote three percent of GDP to R&D, China pledged to spend $9.2 billion by the end of 2010, showing their determination to be a key player in innovative areas such as the biotech industry. Around this time, China’s biotech industry also began focusing more on domestic innovation, including stem cells, cancer and HIV, rather than mainly focusing on routine manufacturing of biogenerics.
In China’s 12th Five-Year-Plan, lasting from 2010-2015 biotechnology was one of its seven pillars. A few years ago China’s Minister of Health pledged to spend an additional $11.8 billion on biotech innovation from 2015 to 2020.
In the past few decades, the biotech industry in China has been growing at a fast pace. Both manufacturing and consumer consumption have risen drastically. Its growth has outpaced other countries by far. Several factors have led to this growth, including higher levels of industrial output, imports and exports, consumer consumption and capital investment.
In addition to a growing biotech industry, synthetic biology is also up and coming
Xian-en Zhang, Director General of the basic research department of the China Ministry of S&T (MOST) said that the focus on synthetic biology comes from an urgency to focus on public health, nutrition, and resource needs, and also promoting innovation in science and technology. In 2013, China contributed 10 percent of annual papers on synthetic biology.
MOST recently provided 250 million yuan for several Synthetic Biology National Basic Research projects, to be conducted between 2014-2018.
This is not to say that the growth of biotechnology and synthetic biology is smooth sailing. An article in 2015 claimed that systematic approaches addressing ethical, legal, equity and societal considerations of synthetic biology were not in place. The public engagement seen with the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap of 2012 is not yet being emulated, and neither is responsible research being considered much. However, in 2015 there started to be indications that these issues were coming to the forefront, with academic workshops and meetings discussing the matters.
If you’re curious to learn more about investment and capital flow in and out of China, join SynBioBeta for the Shanghai panel discussion on June 16th at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. This event is part of the ‘Activate! China 2016’ conference, SynBioBeta’s first conference held in China.