July 8 marked the fifth anniversary of Guangzhou’s Biological Island, the city’s newest hub for the biological industry. It has attracted RMB 3.7 billion in investment and 132 companies, giving impetus to the Island’s ambition to become a worldwide center for biological medicine.
Don’t imagine Biological Island as something like a botanical garden or zoo (even though it does feature an attractive and popular greenway). The Island is actually the home of innovation for the city’s biological medicine industry, designated for that purpose by the Chinese government and the city government as early as 2006 and 2007. Situated on Guanzhou Island near Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center, the advanced technologies developed on Biological Island include biotechnology, medical equipment, stem cell research, gene sequencing and testing, and health management.
The island has witnessed the development of several key players in biological medicine. Saliai, a stem cell technology company based on the Island, is one of the country’s leaders in stem cell research. It has applied for over 300 patents and has helped spearhead technologies like repairing cornea injuries with stem cells, the 3D printing of human skin, and the deferral of senescence. Laboratory medicine is another of the Island’s major industries. Firms involved in the field are responsible for receiving specimens from hospitals and discovering the causes of illness through series of sophisticated examinations. KingMed Diagnostics is one of such companies on the Island. It is the country’s largest firm with the highest income in the industry.
“The biological medicine industry in Guangzhou is ushering in an exciting era,” said Eric D. Green, director of the U. S. National Genome Research Institute. “Its high level of technology research makes it possible to conduct genetic research of a larger scale representing China.”
The success of Biological Island is closely attributed to its founding concept and policies. Since its launch, it has refused all development plans involving real estate except for apartments and infrastructure for scientists. Also, the Island imposes very strict rules on its companies. If the land a company applies for exceeds 500 square meters, authorities will carry out on-the-spot investigations. Through a series of tough regulations, Biological Island forms a unique environment with a beautiful greenway, wetlands and river bank harmonizing with blocks of hi-tech companies that look coldly impersonal from the outside.
Other secrets of the island’s success, according to insiders, are its policy of attracting home-grown bio-medicine scientists who have graduated from foreign colleges, and its practice of cooperating with different countries like Singapore, the European Union, Israel and the U.K. Take its cooperation with Israel for example. Launched in 2014, it focuses on the medical equipment industry, with specifications in ophthalmic treatment, diabetic treatment, rehabilitation treatment and plastic surgery. The cooperative program will put forward 40 projects by 2020. Also, a Sino-Israeli biological industry investment fund has been established, bringing in RMB 606 million of investment for the Israeli bio-technology projects registered in Guangzhou.
The master plan of Biological Island calls for the production of a gross output value of RMB 8 billion by 2020 and the launching of 300 biological industry projects, eventually turning the island into the apex of development for the domestic biological industry.
(By Chris Wang, Louis Berney)