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7-Business: South Africa launches biotechnology policy

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Mangena Launches Biotechnology Policy
SOURCE: BuaNews, South Africa, by Zibonele Ntuli
DATE:   9 Sep 2004 

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Mangena Launches Biotechnology Policy

Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena has launched an
ambitious policy for the development of biotechnology in the country.

The Biotechnology Platforms Document outlines the key sectors, capacities
present, existing opportunities, and technology requirements needed to
grow this sector.

It focuses on human health, plant improvement, animal health, and
industrial process, among others.

Mr Mangena said government had unfolded the national biotechnology
strategy because it had recognised the potential benefits of
biotechnology to the citizens.

He said government would have invested R450 million in creating an
infrastructure that would support the country's biotechnology.

"Our investment will continue, despite the clear adoption of biotech
practices around the world, biotechnology is still very young, and it is
changing rapidly as new technologies are developed.

"For South Africa to benefit we need to keep abreast of this fast
changing field, develop a South African intellectual property that is
locally relevant and globally competitive.

We also need to establish, promote an active and effective innovation
process where good ideas can be developed," said Mr Mangena.

Mr Mangena added that it was government's responsibility to improve the
well being of its citizens through sustainable development.

"Science and the associated technological developments are recognised as
part of a toolset capable of providing key opportunities and tailor-made
solutions to problems of the nation.

"They are also recognised as essential components to the development of a
knowledge society and the economy," he said.

He said the country's biotechnology sector was depended on many imported
technologies and products, calling for the investment in technology to
enable the country to commercialise products in the global arena.

It is now hoped broader biotechnology actors will use this report to
assess their business opportunities and align their strategies for
investment in the identified technology platforms.

For its part, government is committed to giving the local sector
opportunities to mature responsibly in biotechnology in the continent.

"Government is committed to creating the best possible climate, be it
regularly, political or commercial, for biotechnology investment. And
this launch serves as a rallying call to industry to join us in
developing a bio-economy," he said.

Last year's national biotechnology survey showed that South Africa had
been involved in the biotech research and development for over 30 years,
however there are still limitations to commercialization.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  SA Patently Failing to Cash in On Research
SOURCE: Business Day, South Africa, by Tamar Kahn
DATE:   9 Sep 2004 

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SA Patently Failing to Cash in On Research

South African research institutions are failing to patent their research
at a sufficient rate, with potentially serious implications for the
economy, says the science and technology department.

"There is a complete incapacity in our higher education system to secure
sufficient patents," the department's chief operating officer, Adi
Paterson, told Parliament yesterday. An international comparison showed
that SA's annual patent rate was only 2,5 patents per million people,
compared to 779 in South Korea and 75 in Australia.

"This is a serious underproduction of patents, which spins back into the
amount of royalties you can earn in the global marketplace," said Paterson.

SA earned the bulk of its international royalties for music, and energy
or mining-related patents, he said.

SA's patent rate was particularly disturbing because it had changed
little since 1998, he said. "If SA's performance continues at its current
rate, it will take us 35 years to equal the annual current performance of
South Korea."

Paterson attributed the dismal patent rate to lack of skills at tertiary
institutions , insufficient incentives, and the absence of a solid
regulatory framework.

The department is drafting a new policy on managing intellectual property
rights that come from publicly funded research. The policy will be a
modified version of the US Bayh Dole Act, which grants universities
ownership of inventions made using federal funds.

Although the South African policy is still at a very early stage,
Paterson indicated it would include provisions for government to have
"walk-in rights" on the research it funds.

This would give government the right to take over a patent if it was in
the national interest . Such a scenario might arise if an institution
developed a new AIDS drug, but failed to commercialise it.


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