Biotech agency aims to create ‘herb hub’ for Asean region

HERBAL products will be a major focus for the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec) over the next five years.

Somvong Tragoonrung, executive director of Biotec, said the agency would leverage advancements in biotechnology and disruptive technologies to create a regional “herbal hub” in Thailand.

The agency aimed to create herbal standards by identifying the quality of herbal and bioactive compounds used to create food and ingredients for pharmaceuticals.

The agency also plans to join forces with other countries, including Japan, to create and sustain the herbal hub.

Somvong said that biotechnology could help improve plant breeding, support the seed industry, and protect plants both from insect-borne diseases and from extinction due to climate change.

Biotec is developฌing “DNA barcodฌing” technology for Thai herbal products, so the ingredients of pharmaceutical drugs can be identified through a genetic marker, and “DNA fingerprinting” technology to assist with plant conservation management.

It expects to apply barcoding to 600-700 herbal and plants over the next few years.

“I think that the global trend is driving forward into biotechnology, biocosmetics and biopharmaceutical,” Somvong said.

“There is a greater demand for bioproducts in the global market. Thailand also has the potential to deliver biocosmetics and biopharmaceuticals to the market, supporting the Thailand 4.0 strategy.

“We will join hands with the private sector to support the bioeconomy.”

The agency provides plant-breeding support for crops including rice and cassava, and it uses genome technology to develop vaccines for farm animals, including pigs for domestic use.

“I think that biotechnology in Thailand compares well with others countries in the Asean region. We are second only to Singapore,” said Somvong.

He said the agency would be lever aging the knowledge in its “microbe bank” to benefit the Thai public.

-Written by Jirapan Boonnoon in The Nation.  See original article link here.