India is one of the most competitive country to thrive in, but it does have plenty of opportunities if one is passionate enough to explore and seize the opportunity.
Scenario of the past (Funding crunch and brain drain)
- Funding: A business without a funding source will flounder under the weight of its own debt. Funding is the fuel on which a business runs and biotech industry always ran out of it. Also, government funding is crucial for the biotech industry due to limited access to other sources (venture capitalists; because high risk of investment) of funding.
- In the first phase (1984-85), 5 universities were selected for initiating M.Tech programme in this multi-disciplinary area. Subsequently, in 1985-86 and 1986-87, the DBT had added 8 universities/institutions for teaching programmes.
- By 2002, DBT was supporting 20 courses in general biotechnology, 4 in agricultural biotechnology, one each in medical and marine biotechnology while couple of diploma courses in molecular and biochemical technology. (The Department of Biotechnology of IIT KGP was established in 1999 to run the UG program independently)
- The government did realize that Biotechnology is one way that India can deliver feed, heal, and provide new, clean sources of energy to its people.
With this history, I want to convey that Biotech in India is comparatively still very young!
Expected future - boom!
The Indian biotechnology industry is on the verge of entering a new era when it can provide significant economic growth and development to the people of India and around the world. Currently, biopharmaceutical sector accounts for the largest share of the biotech industry with a share of 64% in total revenues, followed by bio-services (18%), bio-agriculture (14%), bio-industrial (3%) and bioinformatics (1%).
- Funding: In 12th Five-Year Plan (2012 - 2017), the government aims to spend USD 3.7 billion on biotechnology compared to USD 1.2 billion in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007 - 2012) and USD 0.3 billion in 10th Five-Year Plan. This investment is to accelerate the pace of research, innovation and development to improve biotechnology in India and also to build infrastructure to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
- Policy: With the government taking the lead, there has been a rising investments from domestic and foreign players. 100% FDI is permitted through automatic route for manufacturers of drugs and pharmaceuticals. The R&D sector has huge potential, many opportunities have been created with a number of foreign companies investing in this sector.
- Infrastructure Development: Biotechnology infrastructure is witnessing a shift from traditional clusters to specialised industrial infrastructure such as biotech or science parks. These clustered resources are the main reason for the rapid development of biotech in Boston and Cambridge (UK).
- Pharma: India supply 20 per cent of global generic medicines market exports in terms of volume, making the country the largest provider of generic medicines globally and expected to expand even further in coming years.
- Bioinformatics: With ~10 per cent of the global professional and skilled bioinformaticians, its research is poised to become one of the fastest emerging markets in India. Bioinformatics is estimated to rise at a growth rate of 34.92 per cent to USD2.7 billion during FY12–25.
- Clinical Trials: Cost effectiveness, competition, and increased confidence on capabilities and skill sets have propelled many global pharmaceutical companies to increase their clinical research investment in the nation.
- Bio-agriculture: In India, 11.57 million hectares of area is covered under genetically modified crops which is majorly dominated by Bt cotton. India has the potential to become a major producer of transgenic rice and several Genetically Modified (GM) or engineered vegetables.
- International Collaborations:
- Joint proposals are being funded and MoUs are being signed with leading countries like Japan, UK, Denmark, France etc.
- In 2015, DBT announced Indo-Australian Gold Fellowships to support researches to undertake collaborative research project in Australia for 24 months.
- In 2015, the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Government of India Department for Biotechnology (DBT) formed an alliance to fund three major global research centers.
- Encouraging students:
- DBT collectively sponsored around INR 50 lacs to Indian teams for participating in International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) 2016, world’s biggest genetic engineering competition.
- In collaboration with (Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises) ABLE, DBT also conducts a b-plan competition exclusively for students with prize money worth INR 15 lacs.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”