Puerto Rico is starting to move towards greater R&D activity. World class research centers in cardiovascular, oncology, and soon molecular science are putting the territory on the global map for pharmaceutical research.
But Puerto Rico is starting to move beyond manufacturing and towards greater R&D activity. Puerto Rico’s Cardiovascular and Cancer Centers are considered world-class and leaders in the region. In 2013, the University of Puerto Rico invested USD 72 million in a 153,000 square foot Molecular Sciences Building (MSB) that aims to accelerate the licensing and commercialization of patents, and has already sparked interest among a number of major pharmaceutical companies. The research center Fundación de Investigación houses the only Phase I clinical trial unit in the Caribbean and played a critical role in the development of Sovaldi, and has also conducted studies for many of the biggest names in the industry.
“The tax incentives program for R&D is really good and this is also available for services and manufacturing.”
– Dante Castillo, Haemonetics
Driving much of the growth in the research area is the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, an autonomous entity designed to help stimulate innovation and provide funding for infrastructure and projects in the area of technology across a number of sectors, and the life sciences are no exception. Lucy Crespo, a former executive at Hewlett Packard, was named director of the Trust in March 2015 and has been working non-stop to bring more capital funding to the island, including partial funding for both the MSB and the Cancer Center. Both buildings are part of a 72-acre “Knowledge Corridor” that the Trust is building in the coming years to support the promulgation of innovation across 11 hospitals.
The Trust also recently received approval to work with every clinical trial unit in the territory. “From this, we formulated a unique value proposition to work together in one office to promote Puerto Rico as a one-site-solution for clinical trials,” explains Crespo. “STRT is going to facilitate the process and infrastructure to ensure that we can make those trials and innovative treatments available to Puerto Ricans.”
How will all of this activity come to fruition in a realistic way? “We need to have highly skilled people, the best and latest technology and be able to develop, register and engage in technology transfer to launch products as fast as possible, says Iván Lugo, executive director of the non-profit organization Industry University Research Center (INDUNIV), which aims to solidify the link between Puerto Rican industry, academia and government. “INDUNIV has appointed itself the mission not only to promote manufacturing, but the whole value chain. As a result, we have supported the construction of innovation centers bringing together academia and the private sector for Phase II development. If we formulate and develop the product here, it is also very likely that its manufacturing and launch will also take place on the island.”
“Puerto Rico offers plenty of opportunities for both R&D and manufacturing, however it is important to identify how it can better capitalize corporations’ needs for net low cost,” says Dante Castillo, managing director of Boston-based blood management company Haemonetics’ Puerto Rican affiliate. “Puerto Rico holds an extensive combination of talent, knowledge and maturity in the manufacturing environment.” But it also needs R&D talents as well, he says. Additionally, “the tax incentives program for R&D is really good and this is also available for services and manufacturing.”