Malta: A New Commercial Destination For Life Sciences

Last Updated: 1 October 2013
Article by Daniela Cassar

Malta is at the door of an exciting era as it prepares for the birth of a new multi million euro investment life sciences project set to be finished in 2014. The BioMalta Campus is to give rise to a new research and development base which shall create a beneficial environment for the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, which will in turn be supported by highly advantageous fiscal and financial incentives. Global leading companies in the industry now have the opportunity to broaden their commercial reach towards a new Mediterranean destination, as Malta becomes an emerging new market for life sciences, particularly for start ups in the life sciences sector.

It has been established that no common definition of the term 'life sciences' exists amongst the various European countries, especially in terms of which sectors of science life sciences encompass. It appears that those countries that use the term 'life sciences' to brand the industry "mostly pursue activities in the sector of biotechnologies" (Giovacchini, 2011). Life Sciences and Biotechnology play a key role in certain sectors of the European economy, particularly in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, as well as in the fields of industrial processing and primary production or agro-food. Biotechnology is also expected to contribute to the environment and particularly to such niche sectors as alternative energy (European Commission, 2007).

It follows that in order to ensure the sustainable development and the healthy and safe application of life sciences, Malta should introduce regulations in a way that would govern the safety of materials and practices used in research, and therefore avoiding the possibility of adopting a reputation of a D-I-Y life sciences destination, which would in turn diminish public confidence. In this respect, the European Commission encourages "responsible policies in a forward-looking and global perspective" (European Commission, 2002) in a manner that encourages scientific discovery and innovation within the appropriate boundaries and taking into account the benefits, risks and ethical considerations of life sciences. Regulation should therefore also focus on shielding society from the dangers that can come with unexamined and unrestrained scientific inquiry.

Life sciences stakeholders stress the importance of governance set to the highest of standards. Being of such a nature where human safety is at stake, building public confidence and understanding should be an ongoing concern for every government. Fundamentally, good governance should ensure legal certainty, and should enhance confidence in science by all those concerned as well as guarantee EU support and public and EU funding. In turn, publicly funded research in support of regulatory oversight should enhance public confidence.

Effective patent protection is one of the most important considerations in the life sciences industry. It is ultimately an essential means of guaranteeing return on investment. In view of the rapid scientific progress, legislation on intellectual property needs to be monitored very closely. The European Commission advises regular assessments on whether the patent regime satisfies the needs of researchers and companies (European Commission , 2002).

In the wake of a European Commission publication 'Enabling Science: EU support to research infrastructures in the life sciences' (European Commission, 2013), the EU has strengthened its message to support the life science industry in Europe, as life sciences research infrastructures develop further.

Having earned a positive track record in the various sectors related to Healthcare and the Life Sciences Industry, Malta has the potential to become a leading destination in the area of life sciences and advanced medical research if it establishes policies that implement its economic vision in a manner that empowers the investor whilst protects the consumer. Malta's highly skilled workforce, its sound business environment, coupled with competitive cost structure and low corporate taxation and attractive incentives packages, are only a few amongst many reasons why Malta has grown into an ideal and strategic location for the conduct of international business.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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