News published on: June 25, 2019
The Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify.”. Therefore, to be considered a biotech company it is necessary to have a product or service that can be applied in the market. A study done by CEBRAP (The Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning) mapped 237 biotechnology companies in Brazil, and according to SINDUSFARMA (The Syndicate of the Pharmaceutical Products Industry in the State of São Paulo) in 2017 the Brazilian biopharmaceutical and biotechnology market was worth about US$ 18 billion.
The 237 companies mapped are divided into the following areas:
Most businesses are working with human health (39,7%), followed by two critical sectors: animal health and reagents. Biotech companies that work with agriculture represent 9,7% and can grow even more since it is a vital area for Brazilian GDP. It is important to consider that many biotechnology companies can apply their products and services in several fields and the search done by CEBRAP considers only each companies main acting area.
The graphic above shows the distribution of biotech businesses around Brazil. The outheastern region has the highest concentration of companies (78,1%) represented by São Paulo (SP), Minas Gerais (MG), and Rio de Janeiro (RJ) States. The south region holds 13,9% being Paraná (PR) and Rio Grande do Sul (RS) the States with the biggest contribution, and the Northeastern accounting for 6,3%.
São Paulo (SP) has a vast amount of those companies. The city represents 18% of all Brazilian biotech companies, while Belo Horizonte (MG) follows at 13%. These two cities are biotechnology hubs, with an ecosystem of companies, startups, business incubators and accelerators, research centers, universities, and government institutions. As a result of the actions of this innovation ecosystem participants, a high number of companies are also nearby those cities.
Providing the right environment is key to developing innovative companies and startups. The study showed that 50,3% of biotech companies are, or have been, in a business incubator. A research done by Biominas Brasil show that Brazil has a total of 140 business incubators, but not all of them have the infrastructure to really help biotech companies in their early stages. That same logic also applies for the 50 businesses accelerators. Most of those incubators are linked to universities and technology parks, creating a connection between the academy, entrepreneurship and the market. The accelerators are often close to major universities and relevant cities of the innovation ecosystem such as São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
That same research mapped 222 startups and research projects in Brazil that focus on biotechnology for human and animal health. Those numbers show that Brazil has the potential to grow and develop new biotech companies, but it is necessary to invest in the alignment between all players, such as investors, startups, researchers, consumers, etc. That alignment is being done by government agencies, innovation centers within universities and private institutions, such as Biominas Brasil, that are dedicated to fomenting the biotech ecosystem.
Biominas is a private institution with 29 years of national and international experience. Its core business is innovation and entrepreneurship in Life Science.
Biominas creates and develops innovative businesses from promising ideas and projects originated from universities and research centers. Biominas helps large and medium-sized companies that want to innovate and improve their connections with startups and researchers.
Government agencies, universities and institutions like Biominas need to provide guidance to startups and companies so they can understand the market and provide their solutions efficiently. They also need to provide initial low-cost infrastructure, since biotech requires high investments, and new companies need a place such as incubators to start their businesses. As most startups and projects mapped are in the health sector, they too need access to information. They need to be aware of intellectual property and regulations, so it’s possible to innovate according to government rules.
The biotechnology industry is known for its complexity and investments in R&D. To succeed it is fundamental to invest in innovation and research. One way to measure a country’s investments in R&D is to analyze the intellectual property system:
The National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) is the official government body responsible for Industrial Property rights in Brazil, a federal autarchy of the Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services. Its mission is to stimulate innovation in technology services in Brazil, through the efficient protection of industrial property.
INPI released a study about overall status of the biotech sector in Brazil, showing the number of patents filed, the technologies’ origin, and the main depositors from 2012 to 2016.
For this study, INPI classified biotechnology in 12 areas. As presented in graph 3, those 12 areas have 35 categories to better represent the patents. Following that classification, “Microorganisms, Enzymes, and their Compositions” represent 25,7% of all patents filed in that period, followed by “Medicines” with 17,5%. The area with less representation is “Genomic and Proteomic Libraries” with 0,8%. Agriculture and environment are fundamental fields for Brazil’s economy and hold 10,1% of patents filed.
55% of the main patents depositors in Brazil are universities, representing 10% of all patents filed in the period. Those numbers prove how relevant it is for companies to connect with universities and create relationships with researchers. That also shows Brazil’s potential to foster new businesses, startups and create innovation clusters. It is significant to highlight the universities from Minas Gerais and São Paulo, the ones with most patents filed, proving their status as biotech hubs.
Brazil is the birthplace of 28,6% of technologies whose patents were filed between 2012 and 2016. It is safe to presume that most of those technologies are from universities since they are responsible for most of the patents deposited in the country. Furthermore, it is relevant to recognize the influence of foreign companies in Brazil, since a number of them invest in innovation in the country and create positive relations with local startups and researchers.
This Brazilian biotech sector overview shows the investments that are being done in recent years to improve and grow biotechnology in Brazil. To innovate and generate new business opportunities is crucial to continue to invest in R&D, patents and create ways to nurture startups, researchers, and entrepreneurs. The number of startups and research projects in biotech is growing in Brazil, presenting a positive panorama for companies that aim to expand investments, market share and develop more products and services in the country.
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This content is part of the 3rd edition of the bioBr Magazine, an annual publication designed especially for those who come to visit the Brazilian Pavillion at the BIO International Convention.