COMMERCIALIZING OUR BIODIVERSITY FOR WELLNESS
YBhg Dato’ Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal CEO of BiotechCorp
One of BiotechCorp’s business focus strategies is to set forth the advancement of the local wellness industry in Malaysia. This development came about following the last Bio-IAP meeting in New York in September 2014.
Three important sectors were identified and recognised as high growth areas within the bio-based economy after careful deliberation from the Bio-IAP members. Seen as strategic drivers that will contribute greatly to the development of the Malaysian bioeconomy, two of the key focuses, (1) Bio-cosmeceuticals, wellness and pharma nutrition along with (2) Cellular therapy and stem cells has a direct linkage to the global wellness industry.
Since then, I have come across many people from the wellness community, both local and international, from public and private establishments eager to share their wellness experiences and to explore new business opportunities in this exciting and expanding field.
Consistent with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of “health,” a 2013 report from the Global Wellness Tourism Economy defines wellness as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being. Wellness also goes beyond freedom from diseases and greatly emphasises on all proactive measures to prevent and maintain overall health and wellbeing. These proactive approaches to health, expressed along the healthcare continuum incorporates attitudes and activities that prevent disease, improve health, enhance quality of life, and bring a person to increasingly optimum levels of well-being.
Demographic factors including rising income and behavioural changes tend to lead to increase in health risks. Sedentary or stressful lifestyles, unhealthy food intake, alcohol and tobacco consumption contribute to higher incidences of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. These conditions have significant implications on healthcare costs and culminates in increasing demand for relatively expensive treatment and long-term rehabilitative care. Malaysia has its own share in the prevalence of these behaviour-linked and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including hypertension, diabetes and obesity. I came across a 2014 report from WHO that NCDs accounted for 73% of the total mortality rate in Malaysia.
A strategic respond in reducing demand for healthcare treatment is by promoting healthy lifestyles. It is interesting to note that the global wellness industry currently consist of many sub-sectors within it. Most notable among which are beauty and anti-aging products, healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss, wellness tourism, fitness, preventive and personalised medicine, complementary and alternative medicine, wellness lifestyle real estate, spa industry as well as workplace wellness.
Even more noteworthy is that the global wellness industry is now a market totalling USD3.4 trillion, according to the latest number obtained from the Global Wellness Summit Industry Statistics and Facts 2014. This is approximately 3.4 times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry. The beauty and anti-aging segment of the wellness industry was by far the largest with a market size of more than one trillion US dollars. Healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss in addition to wellness tourism are also large categories.
Malaysia might be considered as a newcomer in the wellness sector, nevertheless the country has the potential to become a serious player in the overall global wellness industry in the coming years. Apart from that, the wellness sector is also deemed a conducive and core component to support the Malaysian bio-based economy because it can flourish in tandem with the growth of healthcare, biomedical and medical tourism sectors. The health supplement market, for example was estimated at RM3.15 Billion in 2013 and with a CAGR of 4.91% for the period of 2009 to 2013.
For one thing, our nation can certainly leverage and tap into the abundance of biological resources and biodiversity in order to have a more significant share of the regional and global wellness market. With over 15, 000 estimated known plant species and over 2, 000 species with medicinal values, plant or herbal produce provided the starting raw materials for many perfumery, cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals and health supplement products.
It appears that there is an existing global market readily recognising the value that our biodiversity can offer. For sure, the full potential is still waiting to be explored. Centering on the cultivation and utilisation of high value crops, for instance high value herbs and bio-aromatic plants such as lavender, rosemary, Japanese horseradish, Goji berry, and Tongkat Ali amongst others, coupled with the continuous effort done by the industry players to develop their technologies and products, together with the support provided by the Government in terms of growing consumer consumption, the wellness industry in Malaysia is expected to continue to demonstrate further growth in the coming years.
Allow me to highlight one novel discovery of our well-known local herb Tongkat Ali or scientifically known as Eurycoma longifolia. Apart from being traditional remedy for the treatment of malaria, high blood pressure, fevers, fatigue, loss of sexual desire, and impotence, Tongkat Ali is also good to help us manage stress by reducing the level of the hormone Cortisol leading to greater energy, improved mood and psychological well-being.
For that reason, I must emphasize the importance of biotechnology and bio-based technology applications, which include novel research, natural compounds discovery and processing methods, fermentation as well as extraction technology are critical aspects in adding more value to the line of products and services of the Malaysian wellness sector.
BiotechCorp-employed holistic approaches are thus devoted to address many critical factors that are crucial for industry development. This include making available an industry conducive ecosystem with access to research infrastructure and complete with R&D support, farmland for raw material supply and incentives for locating manufacturing, processing, packaging and distribution facilities. These strategies are meant to pitch Malaysia as the prime biotechnology and wellness centre in the region by using a total value chain approach that will ensure the connectivity of every stage in the wellness market, from raw material supply to processing and the logistics of getting the final products to shelf.
I have confidence that with the right strategy, we will be able to position Malaysia as a great fodder to the wellness revolution, boosting local industry standards, and ultimately benefitting consumers and business operators alike. So, if you are a bio-entrepreneur or aspiring to become one and also considering a business in wellness, there could be no better time than now to start your own business.