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[NEW DELHI] Biotechnology associations in countries stretching from the Middle East to South-East Asia have come together to promote biotechnology and build on each other's strengths in the field.

To this end, they have created the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations (FABA), which was launched on 10 February by Maharaj Bhan, secretary of India's Department of Biotechnology, at the BioAsia 2005 conference in Hyderabad, India.

FABA's founding members are India, Iran, Israel, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The federation's president, Anwar Nasim — who also chairs Pakistan's National Biotechnology Commission — says it will to promote biotechnology as a science, profession and industry by bringing together scientists, academic institutions and the private sector.

It aims to promote collaboration between industry and academia, and boost investment in biotechnology, international trade in biotechnology products, and outsourcing of services.

The federation will also sponsor study and business teams travelling between member nations and to other countries.

"The idea is to pool together each countries' strengths so that Asia as a region can move faster in its development of biotechnology," says Bhim Sain Bajaj, FABA's secretary and chair of the southern chapter of the All-India Biotechnology Association.

The federation will be a hub for biotechnology associations operating in member countries. According to Bajaj, the federation will not develop a central research agenda; national chapters will instead draw up research policies and priorities in line with their country's requirements.

Bajaj says the federation's members will discuss issues such regulations at future meetings.

Participants at the BioAsia 2005 conference identified areas for potential collaborations including human and veterinary vaccines, diagnostic products, biopharmaceuticals, pre-clinical and clinical trials, intellectual property rights and venture financing.