The Malaysian government is quietly launching a major project aimed at harnessing the country's abundant natural biodiversity to create a viable biotechnology industry.
It plans to invest US$160 million over the next three years to build three research institutes, dedicated to molecular biology, plant biotechnology and drug development.
But in contrast to similar initiatives elsewhere, BioValley Malaysia is being set up in an atmosphere that borders on secrecy. Some Malaysian researchers are suggesting that the government wants to keep the project low profile because a comparable information-technology initiative in 1997 failed to meet its advertised goals. Others say the government is sensitive to charges that it is allowing private investors to exploit Malaysia's rich biodiversity.