Monthly Archives: February 2012

The end of genetically-engineered rice in China?

Greenpeace seems rather enthusiastic: earlier this week, the State Council has released a draft proposal to restrict research, field trials, production, sale, import and export of genetically-engineered (GE) grain seeds.

It is not the first time that GE rice is under question in China. This time it seems even more serious as there are concerns that non-approved GE rice may have already ended on consumers’ plates.

If the proposal was to become law (a process that can be rather protracted – the telecommunication law has been in draft form more than 15 years), it would mark an important policy reversal: in 2010 commercial planting of GE rice was expected to take place between 2013 and 2015.

Hacked for a decade

According to the Wall Street Journal Nortel, the now-defunct telecommunication equipment manufacturer, has been the victim of corporate cyber-espionnage for a decade or so. Plenty of time for the intruders to secure access to R&D work, business plans and other valuable information. The intrusion appears to have been spotted a first time in 2004 but its sophistication level was so high that it continued five more years.

The story does not end there: after its bankruptcy, Nortel was split into pieces and sold (hardware included) to several companies among which Avaya and Ericsson (whose heads of IT security must be running extra-securty checks on their Chinese corporate computer networks these days).

What reads like a spy novel is probably more frequent than one suspects. The risk of cyber-theft is considered high enough that officials from US government agencies use ‘loaner devices’ as a standard operating procedure (wiped cleaned before departure for China and upon return).

A new global innovation landscape?

The ‘webopshere’ has been awash with comments on ‘A CEO’s guide to innovation in China‘, a short piece recently released by McKinsey.

Not surprisingly, one reads that China is home to an increasing number of innovative products and patents and that competition between Chinese and foreign firms is bound to get more intensive. The piece also highlights some notable differences between domestic companies and MNCs: the former excel at time-to-market and can rely on the government’s strong support while the latter are better at nurturing a culture of innovation in-house.

The piece leaves one fundamental question aside: how does the transformation of the Chinese innovation eco-system re-define the global innovation landscape? Stay tuned if you are interested in the answer….

West meets East?

Ever heard of Tasly Pharmaceutical, the Kanglaite Group or Lanzhou Foci Pharmaceutical? All three companies are either engaged in clinical trials in the United States or applying for registration in the EU with drugs derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Akin to the research carried out on malaria by Youyou Tu, TCM may offer promising avenues to cure some of the world’s most lethal diseases.

Recognition of TCM by Western drugs agencies however rests on the capacity of scientists to clearly identify the active ingredient, something rather difficult for researchers used to traditional methodologies (e.g., water decoction, immersion, etc.) to process herbs.

There is no doubt that important efforts will be needed to conform to Western agencies’ strict protocols of registration so as to ensure the safety and effectiveness of drugs derived from TCM. Time may have come for both “worlds” to cooperate and devise together strategies to bridge the gap between Western and Chinese medicine.