Brunei is keen to develop its life sciences and pharmaceutical industry in its efforts to diversify the economy and to achieve the aspiration of becoming a vibrant regional hub for export- oriented manufacturing and research and development (R&D).
A country which boasts high standards in Halal Certification, Brunei is the first to issue guidelines on the production of Halal pharmaceutical products. The certification provides entrepreneurs vast opportunities to export their products to Islamic markets across the world.
The Brunei Halal Certification mark is recognised globally as one of the most stringent certification processes. The Brunei Halal brand’s establishment is in line with the country’s move towards developing a diversified, competitive and sustainable economy. It is considered to be one of the drivers of the nation’s future economy and encompasses all related Halal sectors such as food products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, supply of raw materials, production and manufacturing, packaging, storage, logistics and other services.
The brand is used as a platform for the development of local products and SMEs and to provide job opportunities for locals. It also promotes the country as a preferred investment destination within the region.
The Brunei government has formulated a series of documentation on standards and guidelines pertinent to the Halal industry which will help boost investors’ confidence in the industry. In ensuring that locally-produced products meet the Halal requirements, the Halal Science and Metrology Centre under the Global Halal Industry Development Division of the EPDMO has laboratory facilities to conduct Halal food analysis. This laboratory is able to detect pork DNA and proteins as well as alcohol, oil, lard, gelatine and other ingredients which can make products non-Halal.
The Department of Pharmacy and Food Quality Control Unit under the Ministry of Health is the regulatory body for pharmaceutical products in the country. It safeguards public health and maintains product quality.
To invest in pharmaceutical manufacturing, investors are required to comply with the regulations of the country that include Poison Act, Medicine Order 2007 and Medicines Regulation 2007. Several other permits from relevant authorities are also required, such as for importing certain commodities and chemicals and transporting certain classes of machinery and vehicles.
One of the most successful pharmaceutical companies which has invested in the country is Simpor Pharma (Brunei) Sdn Bhd. It is the first pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in the country and began operations in September 2013. The 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility is situated at the Salambigar Industrial Site. This company is a B$27-million joint-venture between Canadian firm Viva Pharmaceutical Inc, the Ministry of Finance and a group of local investors. The company manufactures over-the-counter Halal pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products for both local consumption and the export market. Committed to ensuring good quality and safety through all the stages of manufacturing, Simpor
Pharma tests all finished products to ensure that specified requirements are met. The company currently produces more than 100 products comprising health supplements, pharmaceutical products and cosmetics.
Another success story is MC Biotech Sdn Bhd, the first commercial biotechnology facility in Brunei. The company produces natural Astaxanthin, a highly valuable nutraceutical ingredient produced from microalgae. Launched in late October 2016, the B$20 million facility is expected to produce 18 metric tonnes of biomass annually to be exported to Japan for final processing. It is hoped that MC Biotech, owned by Mitsubishi Corporation and Nissui, can be a pioneer in biotechnology and a key player in the life science industry in Brunei that paves the way for related downstream opportunities, creates local employment opportunities and eventually taps into the global Halal market. Last year, MC Biotech exported almost one metric ton of biomass to Japan for final processing. The MC Biotech facility is located at the BioInnovation Corridor in Kampong Tungku.
Mr. Yuki Kaneda, the Executive Director of MC Biotech remarked, “After three years of R&D, we have smoothly started operations. We want to contribute to Brunei’s economy. This country has Mr. Yuki Kaneda, Executive Director of MC Biotech Sdn Bhd a well-preserved environment and very strong sunlight whole year round with clean water and fresh air. It is therefore a good location to produce healthy ingredients for food and cosmetics. We also received very good support from the Government of His Majesty who granted us with “Pioneer Status.”
Plans for the second phase of MC Biotech will be completed in three to five years. “Once we have stable business and return on investment, we will make another huge investment in Brunei for the finishing process,” added Mr. Yuki Kaneda.
He also stated that the current Astaxanthin market is very competitive and there are growing numbers of new biotech companies joining the market. Despite the challenges, MC Biotech is confident that they can succeed.
Mr. Yuki Kaneda also commended the potential of microalgae in research. In 2017, he expects the export to increase gradually, equating to one or two metric tonnes of biomass per month. This will, however, depend on the demand in the market.
Regarding employment creation, Mr. Yuki Kaneda stated that the company is looking at increasing local employment once they are fully operational. Currently, 25 locals are employed at the facility.
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