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The government of Malaysia is setting up a 100 million ringgit (US$26 million) fund to support biotechnology research and development.

Jamaluddin Jarjis, minister of science, technology and innovation announced the plan last week (29 April) at the BioMalaysia 2005 conference in Putrajaya.

The Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation, set up last week to support and advise biotechnology-related businesses, will distribute part of the money.

The corporation is due to begin operating this week and is ready to receive funding applications, according to Bernama, Malaysia's national news agency.

Jarjis's announcement came the day after Malaysia's prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi unveiled the country's national biotechnology policy (see Malaysia launches big push for biotechnology).

In his speech, Badawi highlighted the potential for biotechnology to improve health, increase food security and protect the environment. He said Malaysia was noted for its skilled workforce, strength in research-based industry, and excellent infrastructure.

But to take advantage of these strengths, he said, Malaysia had to create "the right environment for biotechnology to flourish".

"We have to assist those with the expertise to carry out biotech-driven research and development or to develop biotech-driven businesses, or as is often the case today, to do both," said Badawi.

He pointed out that biotechnology relies on research in public institutions and that government support for the sector was essential.

"Resources must be provided to support biotech ventures at all stages of development," said Badawi. "The journey between discovery and cash flow is a long one, sometimes longer than the patience of private sector investors."

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