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Dec 29, 2011

Biotech in Brazil on the Rise

  • Much has been written about the growing financial clout of the BRIC countries. India and China seem to garner most of the coverage. And for good reason. Their economies have radically raised themselves to almost unimaginable levels from where they stood 20 or 30 years ago. Russia has left most of the social and economic wreckage of its Communist past in the dust (except for the occasional rigged election). In fact, Russia comes in third after the U.S. and China in terms of the number of billionaires in that country. All three nations have strong life science programs in place and are usually represented at most large biotechnology meetings, especially the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) conference.

    Recently, I’ve been thinking more about Brazil. The country’s superior efforts in biofuels research and production have already been well documented. But what caused me to take a closer look at Brazil was the number of Brazilian researchers I ran into at conferences I attended in 2010 and 2011 in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. I’ve been going to such biotech events for over 25 years and it just seems to me that more scientists from Brazil are now showing up.

    What’s going on? Well, it turns out that Brazil is the second largest grower of biotech crops on the globe. Also, I recently read an article focusing on Latin America on the Burrill and Company website. It reported that Brazil’s business environment is such that the country has become a prime location for potential investment opportunities. The Brazilian government also has taken the necessary steps to safeguard inventors’ intellectual property rights. As the Burrill article goes on to point out: “These initiatives not only promote technological innovation but also act as incentives to boost overall R&D spending, the life blood of the life sciences industry.” The country exhibits particular strengths in genomics, stem cell R&D, vaccines, the neurosciences, green biotechnology, and, of course, biofuels.

    A Nature editorial in July 2010 noted that “Brazilian biotechnology has matured to the point at which its scientists are players on the international stage.” This quote reinforces my perception that I am seeing a greater number of Brazilian life scientists at biotech conferences all over the world.

    In reporting on the biotechnology industry for over two decades, I can recall seeing very few articles in GEN, or anywhere else for that matter, that discussed Brazil’s biotechnology expertise. It looks like that situation is about to change.


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