Commercializing Research to Drive Innovation: Mexico’s TransitionWed, 09/09/2015 - 13:13
Before starting the discussion, Dr. Xavier Soberón, Director General of INMEGEN, presented the implications of the human genome in life sciences, and the importance of genomics in the biotechnological industry. According to Soberón, Mexico is truly behind in innovation and patent generation in comparison to other countries. However, Mexico does have strong institutions and enough human talent to compete in these segments at an international level. The problem is that there are few economic activities directed to innovation, which means the government and academic institutions have to promote this participation. “The INMEGEN is the only institution that has a Technological Transfer Office, which shows the opportunity to increase the level of transparency throughout the entire industry,” says Soberón.
The first question he addressed as the panel moderator was related to the main factors regarding innovation in the health sector. Dr. Gustavo Cabrera, CEO of Global Biotherapeutics, was the first to answer, claiming that this is a slow process that requires a total compliance of the regulations and standards that rule the sector. Cabrera states that there are few CROs in Mexico, and they still need to develop to intermediate species to be more competitive in the market. According to Dr. Sonia Mayra Pérez Tapia, Executive Director of UDIBI, the academia has the advantage that part of its vision is to generate knowledge. However, she explains a disadvantage of professional research; people who do research cannot normally commercialize their products, but recent changes in regulations might change this for the better. Another obstacle is that research in Mexico is much more expensive than in many other global locations. “These changes in regulations could further promote innovation in our country, and even work as employment generators in the national industry,” claims Pérez. Sergio Valentinotti, Director Life Sciences at Laboratorios Liomont, says that Mexican research is more directed to publications, instead of patents and prototypes that could benefit the sector. Nevertheless, the generation of appropriate patents is another factor that should be analyzed to engage in better innovation activities.
The next question presented by Soberón was related to the needs of researchers from the private and the public sector, and the most promising innovation areas in Mexico. Valentinotti explained that the private sector has not been so quick in innovation processes, since most new projects require a high return on investment in short periods. “Companies and academic institutions need to develop proper relationships to create effective solutions. While corporations need to look for innovation, the academia needs to keep generating knowledge,” he concluded. Pérez added that there is a miscommunication between the private and the education sector. “There needs to be a proper link that understands technology and commercialization.” In terms of areas of opportunity, Pérez mentions quality in generics, veterinary biotechnology drugs, and molecules that have not been exploited to their full potential. On the other hand, Cabrera states that the relationship between companies and his company has been really effective, and has led to extraordinary innovations thanks to the support of CONACYT. The problem he has found is that there are no clinic Phase I analyses, but he expects to reach critical mass for these developments by 2017.
As a final question presented by the public, Soberón asks if there are any successful relationships between educational institutions and private companies that have led to new and effective pharmaceuticals. There were some discrepancies in the answers of all three panelists, since Valentinotti claims there have not been many national examples, while Pérez and Cabrera state the opposite, supported by a member of the audience from CINVESTAV.