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Date: 11 Nov, 2009
Source: The Barbados Advocate

Barbados is looking to attract more foreign direct investment from the biotechnology industry.

That is the word from Wayne Kirton, CEO of Invest Barbados.

Kirton said in an interview that biotechnology is an industry that is burgeoning globally and that Barbados is seeking to be part of that growth. He was at the time outlining Invest Barbados’ five-prong strategy of targeted marketing, new product development, new market development, improving the local environment for facilitating international business, and the development of those indigenous businesses which have export potential.

Noting that Barbados needs a steady supply of foreign direct investment, Kirton pointed out that Invest Barbados is looking at the feasibility of creating a research and development centre of excellence where “we would be able to lease laboratory space to young start-up biotechnology firms.” This, he explained, would be similar to Government’s leasing of factory and office space in BIDC industrial parks at developmental rent rates to investors.

He said that it can take a long time to go through all of the various stages of testing and research to bring a biotechnology product, whether medicinal or agricultural, to the market. The process, he noted, is lengthened by the huge backlog of work in the regulatory agencies in developed countries, like the FDA in the USA, and from entrenched bureaucracy.

“So if we can also set up a regulatory agency here that would be internationally accredited – no short cuts in the protocols and procedures – we could probably shave a year to 18 months off the time it takes to get a product to market,” Kirton reasoned.
“Those two factors, the ability to lease a laboratory instead of having to find significant capital to create one, and the local regulatory agency (which would have minimal backlog or bureaucracy), in addition to the fiscal and export incentives and our educated workforce, would make Barbados very attractive to start-up biotechnology companies,” he suggested.

“What we are trying to do at Invest Barbados is bring this concept forward for consideration. The idea originated from a successful biotechnology entrepreneur who lives in Barbados,” Kirton explained. However, Invest Barbados has hired a UK expert on the biotechnology industry, and later this month he will make a presentation to a diverse group of stakeholders, including the medical profession, the University of the West Indies and several Government departments. After inputs from the stakeholders are assimilated, the project will be submitted to Government for consideration.

“The field of biotechnology is growing rapidly and we need to be involved because of the opportunity it presents for investment, foreign exchange generation, and skills and technology transfer,” he added.