By James Kon, Borneo Bulletin
BRUNEI Darussalam will be producing natural Astaxanthin, a highly valuable nutraceutical ingredient from the cultivation of microalgae following the launch of MC Biotech Sdn Bhd, the first commercial biotechnology facility in the country.
The move will contribute to the diversification of economy and create employment for locals.
With an investment of BND20 million, MC Biotech – a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation and Nissui – was officially launched by Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, the Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday afternoon.
Located at the Bio-Innovation Corridor in Kampong Tungku, MC Biotech is expected to produce 18 metric tonnes of the biomass annually to be exported to Japan for final processing.
Plans are in the pipeline to build a final processing plant besides MC Biotech in order to produce the finished products locally.
Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin said, “Today, we witness another significant milestone with the opening of MC Biotech and the ‘Sinar Suria Bio Center’ located here at the Bio-Innovation Corridor, an industrial park geared to attract halal and bio-industry related investments.
“This marks Brunei Darussalam’s first steps towards embracing developments in industrial biotechnology. The opportunity it presents to Brunei Darussalam is that it allows us to tap into our target industries in new, sustainable ways. We hope that the Bio-Innovation Corridor will grow in the coming years for a vibrant bio-industry to flourish.”
On tapping into the global Halal market, the minister said, “I understand that at present, MC Biotech is still in the process of researching and developing an alternative production process in order to comply with these standards. As such, MC Biotech needs to closely work with the relevant government agencies to achieve this aim.”
Citing to a Thomas Reuters report, he said, “The value of the global Halal pharmaceuticals sector is worth US$72 billion. Hence, the opportunities are endless in this sector. Brunei Darussalam wants to emerge as a leading Halal pharmaceutical producer and exporter in Asean and eventually worldwide. With the Brunei Halal certification and branding, we can do so much more. Here I strongly suggest for MC Biotech to work with Simpor Pharma, Brunei’s first pharmaceutical plant, to find opportunities that would result in the export of Halal pharmaceutical and health supplements worldwide from Brunei Darussalam.”
MC Biotech, the minister said, “is the pioneer in the cultivation of micro-algae for the extraction of Astaxanthin in Brunei Darussalam. Astaxanthin is not only known for its wide use as a natural food-dye, but also for its antioxidant and clear health benefits.”
In 2014, the global market value for Astaxanthin was estimated at $447 million US dollars and is expected to grow rapidly to $1.1 billion US dollars by 2020, he said. “There are certainly great opportunities here for MC Biotech to tap into this growth.”
On attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), the minister said, “What we really need are FDIs, which are able to create value-added products and services in Brunei Darussalam, and to collaborate together with the government agencies and local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). We invite FDIs from across the supply chain to allow the development of robust in-country value chains and industrial ecosystems. We need FDIs to be able to work further downstream to ensure that most of the bioprocessing is carried out in Brunei Darussalam. This can, in turn, create and generate capital, spin-offs in the local market, employment opportunities, and ultimately, diversify and boost the Brunei economy.”
Yuki Kaneda, the Executive Director of MC Biotech Sdn Bhd, said, “Mitsubishi Corporation’s involvement in the project stems from our long experience and presence in Brunei since 1960s with a wish to expand into more diversified industries particularly in the Life Science industry in line with the Brunei Government’s desire.”
MC Biotech Sdn Bhd, he said, is “our first role and mission is to produce natural Astaxanthin from the cultivation of microalgae. Astaxanthin is a natural occurring red pigment; rich in antioxidants those are beneficial in antiageing for human being. It is a highly valuable nutraceutical ingredient often used as a key ingredient for health beverages, healthcare supplements and cosmetic products.”
He said he hoped that MC Biotech can be a pioneer in biotechnology and life science industry in Brunei to pave the way into related downstream opportunities, creating employment, training as well as research and eventually tapping into the global Halal market.