Animal-testing centre to be set up in Malaysia
MoU signed to set up full-fledged animal experiment centre in Malacca
FULLY INTEGRATED: The new multi-million biotechnology centre in Malacca will feature several animal testing laboratories — Filepic
KUALA LUMPUR: A RM450 million deal has been signed between a large Indian biotechnology company and State government-owned Melaka Biotech Holdings Sdn Bhd this year. The State will soon see three animal-experimentation laboratories set up in Rembia in Alor Gajah.
The primate, small animals and canine-testing laboratories will be part of a one-stop fully-integrated biotechnology centre for the development, testing and manufacturing of medicines.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Malacca Biotech, Indian Biotechnology firm Vivo BioTech Limited and Vanguard Creative Technologies Sdn Bhd on Jan 21 in India. A joint-venture company, Vivo Bio Tech (M) Sdn Bhd was set up to facilitate this multi billion ringgit project, in which India's Vivo BioTech would hold majority equity, followed by Vanguard Creative and Melaka Biotech. The MoU was inked in New Delhi by representatives of Vivo BioTech and Vanguard as well as by Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, witnessed by Najib.
But as yet, no notice or application of permit has been made with the Peninsular Malaysia Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS).
Mohd Ali told The Malay Mail that the company was in the process of submitting building plans for the facilities to the Alor Gajah Municipal Council. On the unease of animal welfare groups over the use of animals for experiments, the chief minister gave the assurance the State government would monitor the situation once the centre is set up and operational. Meanwhile, Vivo Bio Tech (Malaysia) director Datuk Kuna Sittampalam stated that the proposed fully integrated biotechnology centre was still in its "early days" as the company has yet to submit building plans to the local council.
"There will be three phases in the construction. Phase one will be the animal-testing facilities while the second and third phases will encompass the biotech facilities," said Sittampalam. He said the company will be importing Beagles from Holland for tests requiring canines, and most probably white mice for the small animal laboratory. He wasn’t sure where they will get the primates from, "Most will be obtained locally, but if we are not allowed, then we will look overseas.
"This is a US$50 billion (RM170 billion) industry and Malaysia wants to be a part of this," said Sittampalam.
Not all tests can be replicated using human tissue culture in place of animals, he said, and explained that animal-testing is a small segment of the whole biotechnology process and people must look at the "bigger picture". Unfortunately, he added, a biotechnology centre must have testing in order to be deemed fully-integrated. There must be the full sequence of drug development, testing and manufacturing, "so the picture is complete".
Perhilitan and DVS in the dark
KUALA LUMPUR: Neither the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) nor the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) have officially heard about the planned biotechnology centre in Rembia, Malacca.
Perhilitan deputy directorgeneral Misliah Mohamad Basir said this was the first time she had heard of such a deal and that she can, to date, "confirm" that no one has approached Perhilitan to obtain a license for bringing in primates to the laboratory.
"They must refer to us (Perhilitan) for licensing as primates are a protected species. This is a big issue. We will have to refer the matter to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment," she said.
Misliah also said that since there are no guidelines or policy on animal testing, Perhilitan will draft new guidelines for the of testing on animals under Perhilitan's jurisdiction if the Ministry were to approve such applications.
DVS deputy director-general (veterinary health) Datuk Dr Ahmad Suhaimi Omar also stated he was not aware of the biotechnology centre in Rembia. Currently, only a permit from DVS is needed if it involves the import of animals. “For us, it is only the import of animals that will be of concern to us, but who has the authority to say yes or no to testing?" he asked, adding that the law (Animal Act 1953) contains legislation only on cruelty towards animals.
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