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April 01, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 7)

Initiatives Advancing Chilean Life Sciences

Reducing the Country’s Dependence on Natural Resources Is a Primary Goal

  • Interministerial Activities

    In addition, there are three interministerial initiatives to boost technology commercialization. One of them, GenomaChile, focuses on projects that make use of genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. From 2001 to 2007, $3.5 million was invested in GenomaChile.

    Finally, 15 consortia boast a total investment (public-private) of $55.6 million and the participation of 110 companies and 36 research groups. There are consortia for animal health, fruits, and salmon. The country also has seven regional centers of biotechnology with an investment of $8.48 million.

    Chile has two private foundations that play an unusual role in promoting biotech—Fundacion Chile and Ciencia para la Vida. Fundacion Chile was established in 1976 by the Chile government and ITT with two objectives: technology transfer and the creation of new technology companies.

    The Fundacion has a technology center that works in five principal areas: agroindustry, marine resources, forestry, environment, and IT. It has a budget of $19 million for five years with a staff of 200 and an additional 500 consultants. The corporate center is dedicated to launching new companies, establishing strategic alliances, providing technology services, and licensing technologies and products.  

    The Fundacion business model is self-financing mainly through the sale of its companies once they have come to maturity. R&D grants up to $300,000 are awarded, and seed capital up to $600,000 is also provided. Investment capital can reach up to $3 million. FC now has 23 companies in its portfolio. 

    Ciencia para la Vida was founded to advance the adoption and use of science-based innovations by Chilean and international companies. It has developed products and technologies that serve the needs of the agriculture, mining, forestry, aquaculture, and healthcare industries.

    In addition, it is building human resources capacities through the training of undergraduate and Ph.D. students in collaboration with local universities. It also  participates in a number of global networks that facilitate scientific collaboration between local and international centers of academic excellence.