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Bio-City, Ayer Keroh, Malacca

It was reported in the local papers recently that the chief minister of Malacca Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam announced the proposed setting up of a RM450 million integrated biotherapeutics plant in Alor Gajah with the help of foreign investors that will soon boost the state significantly and to seal its position as a leading biotechnology state in the country.

Malacca, which is a state rich in historical significance, may soon acquire a new fame as efforts to promote it as a preferred investment destination in areas like biotechnology and health tourism bear fruit. Malacca was a bustling metropolis way back in the 14th century teeming with countless merchants who hailed from Europe, China, the Arab states and Indian subcontinent, is now back as a very active modern player in Malaysia’s economic development. According to the chief minister, the state is experiencing record high foreign direct investments (FDIs) to-date. Some US$2 billion (RM7 billion) worth of investments have been received by Malacca so far this year in both biotechnology and manufacturing, slightly above what it attained between the years 2000 and 2007. The achievement had also surpassed the state target of RM3 billion worth of annual investments.

Mohd Ali Rustam was a witness to the signing of the agreements between the state and foreign investors for the setting up of the RM450 million biotherapeutics facility, which uses biotechnology to produce new drugs to combat diseases like cardiovascular disorder, diabetes and cancer. It was also reported that other conglomerates that had chosen to set up their manufacturing facilities in Malacca, especially in Ayer Keroh, include Infineon Technologies, Creative Technologies, Matsushita and Honda. Some of the reasons for these conglomerates to choose Malacca as their destination for setting up their manufacturing plants were the speed at which their applications were able to be processed and approved and the supportive environment provided by the Malaysian authorities. The other crucial reason is the short air distance between Changi International Airport and our Kuala Lumpur International Airport. If one were to look at these investors’ business plans, they are here not for one year or two, but it is for the long-term.

The Malacca government, which is providing the land for the manufacturing facility, has a 20% stake in the venture via Melaka Biotech Holdings Sdn Bhd. Hyderabad-based Vivo Bio Tech Ltd (India) is the majority shareholder of the venture with 51% stake, while Vanguard Creative Technologies Sdn Bhd holds the remaining 29%. The facility, to be built in Alor Gajah, is expected to start operations by end-2010. Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Iskandar Mizal Mahmood said the project would bring significant benefits to Malaysia, especially in the life sciences research and development sector.

On separate note, there is a proposal to build another bio-tech plant known as the RM1.5 billion Bio-City in Ayer Keroh, which is situated about 15km to the south-east of Alor Gajah. BioCity will nurture partnerships between scientists, entrepreneurs and financiers based on information obtained from the California-based Actis Biologics, a bio-tech venture technology company which is handling the project through Actis Biologics Malaysia Sdn Bhd (ABM). ABM is a joint-venture between Actis Biologics and Malaysian investors. Bio-City is expected to be developed by 2013 and is estimated to generate some 5,000 jobs for skilled workers and scientists. Launched on 19th June 2008 in the “2008 BIO International Convention” by the chief minister of Malacca, the project is located on a 109 ha site in Kota Cemerlang and an estimated 60 companies will be operating from Bio-City, which focuses on creating a life-science industry.

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