The Hong Kong Government should invest in infrastructure and manpower to nurture the biotechnology industry, according to a local venture-capital firm. Kitty Lo, managing director of biotechnology incubator Maxx Bioscience Technology, which helps foreign firms secure recognition by mainland authorities, said the Government had been hesitant on research and funding. This hesitation had hindered the industry's development. 'Despite an Innovation and Technology Fund of HK$5 billion being set up, most of the money was spent on academic research. There is not much assistance from the Government to help the medicine developers to commercialise their products,' Ms Lo said. The Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) said 24 biotechnology projects had been approved since the fund was launched in November 1999 to the end of last year. The fund had invested a total of HK$45.6 million in the projects. ITC said the assistance programme aimed to subsidise research and take the projects to pre-launch stage, but subsequent work on commercialisation would not be funded. Compared with Singapore and the United States, Ms Lo said Hong Kong lacked infrastructure and expertise. 'I have been approached by many pharmacology specialists and I found many are innocent of product commercialisation.' She suggested the Government assemble a team of full-time biotechnology specialists to work on intellectual property, environmental planning and research funding. 'The Government should have a detailed environmental plan and a better policy to encourage local research and attract foreign investment,' she said. There were many opportunities for biotechnology development, specifically with recombinant DNA drugs, genetic re-engineering and therapeutic agents for auto-immune and cardiovascular disorders. 'Biotechnology is not a new subject in Hong Kong but we need more support from the Government to raise local awareness,' Ms Lo said. Biotechnology conference BioITWorld will be held on January 29 and 30 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to provide a platform for industry experts and draw public attention to the industry. Gary Fung, president of organiser IDG World Expo (Asia), said: 'It is the first time such an expo has been organised within the region. We hope BioITWorld will help Asian countries and in particular Hong Kong companies to re-look [at] the potential of biotech development and its business opportunities locally and globally.' Experts and medical professionals from China and overseas have been invited to the two-day event, which will feature robotics, bioinformatics, drug discovery and information-technology solutions for health-care institutions. Mr Fung said the organiser had received support from government departments and local industry, but the industry was in need of support for research and development as well as marketing.