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Merger of Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology Industries Could Spell Disaster for P. R.

Island’s economy could sink if it loses $60 billion in manufacturing operations; local organizations unite to draft life-sciences road map

July 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Members of Puerto Rico’s life-sciences industries will meet tomorrow to discuss how to keep the island from losing its $60 billion in manufacturing operations when pharmaceuticals and biotechnology inevitably consolidate.

In March, the creation of a life-sciences road map for Puerto Rico got off the ground with a $240,000 grant and the collaboration of the Industry University Research Consortium (Induniv), the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, the Puerto Rico TechnoEconomic Corridor (PRTec), the University of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Higher Education Council, and the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. The project has generated discussions about how the island can become a global life-sciences center of excellence.

"We are working with Washington D.C.-based New Economies Strategies and Puerto Rico’s Quality for Business Success to facilitate the process," said Induniv Executive Director Ivan Lugo. "Our objective is to focus on human and economic resources that will converge for the betterment of the pharmaceutical, medical devices, health, and biotechnology sectors."

According to Lugo, the implementation of a life-sciences road map will guarantee Puerto Rico’s conversion from a manufacturing-based economy to one based on knowledge and research & development (R&D). At least four companies already conduct clinical trials on the island, part of the R&D process.

"Puerto Rico is already inserted into one of the most important sectors with its biotechnology plants," said Lugo. "At this point, we aren’t looking to be the largest R&D center worldwide; we just want to have the vision and the elements necessary to become one. With politics being one of our biggest roadblocks, we need to define a public policy that can continue without political considerations."

Some 20 members of the public and private sectors have been invited to join the discussion on the road map. Grouped into Hot Teams for the Puerto Rico Health Clusters Road Map, they represent the manufacturing, technology, and academic sectors; venture capitalists; the central and federal governments; economic development organizations; and industry organizations.

Plans so far include creating a network of clusters in Puerto Rico that coincides with those in other regions; clusters are organized groups of various businesses that strengthen the operational infrastructure. The development of clusters on the island will depend in part on offering sufficient transportation to make Puerto Rico a hub; bundling services such as in architecture, engineering, construction, maintenance, and supplies; and implementing global certification programs for quality assurance and quality control.

Also, the local work force will need to be filled with skilled and professional workers. One suggestion for accomplishing this is to develop Puerto Rico as a brand for science and technology.

"The island’s life-sciences development won’t happen overnight; it is more of a long-term plan," said Lugo. "I lived through a similar situation in a foreign country where there was no R&D, only manufacturing plants. It only took one company moving its investigation efforts there for the surge of other companies to follow. The government and academia worked together for a long time to achieve this and were rewarded at the end."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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