India: a Global Biotech hub
Contribution of Department of Biotechnology
The Department of Biotechnology has collaborated with the Start-Up India Action Plan and have undertaken a number of initiatives centred on the three pillars of an ideal innovation ecosystem which are funding, mentoring and capacity building, and the infrastructure to translate scientific research into commercial products.
The Minister of State for Science and Technology & Earth Sciences has said that biotechnology will be the leader among the knowledge based industries of the 21st century at the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council. BIRAC is a not-for-profit public sector enterprise, set up by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). And Government of India acts as an interface agency to support emerging biotech enterprises to undertake strategic research and innovation, to address nationally relevant product development needs. But producing affordable products will be major issue for India. There is a need to set up a proper ecosystem with sustainable systems, particularly in rural India. BIRAC implements its mandate through a wide range of high impact initiatives, providing access to risk capital through targeted funding, facilitating technology transfer, and supporting intellectual property management and handholding schemes for biotech firms to make them globally competitive.
After all this there are still some things in the field of Biotechnology to be taken care of:
Collaboration between academia and Industry
Even in this decade 90% research funding is from the government sector. Unlike US and Europe, where industry partners with academia for research, there is minimal industry partnership here in India. Growth of biotech sector in India is possible not only by providing excellent human resource like young, bright, trained and skilled biotech professionals to the industry but also through the basic and applied research projects carried out in universities across India, leading to high impact on publications, patents and products. The Department of Biotechnology has been very proactive and had recognized biotechnology as a sunrise sector that needed focused attention.
The National Biotechnology Development Strategy of 2015-2020 identified some thrust areas for biotechnology which are agriculture, food and nutritional security, affordable health and wellness, environmental safety, clean energy and bio fuel, and bio‐manufacturing. Now biotechnology is undergoing a phase of transformation from a low resolution, low throughput data to high resolution, high throughput data which demands that educational institutions consistently update the syllabus to be in demands of the industry. India has shown tremendous potential in the field of biotechnology education, and the government is putting a lot of focus in creating right opportunities for our scientists working abroad. In the past we have witnessed a lot of brain drain in this sector.
All the initiatives taken by the government still fall short of harnessing the country’s knowledge potential to be placed on the global map. The major strength of the country is in the availability of young human capital. According to UN population data, 19.1 per cent of India’s population is between the ages of 15 and 24 years. This huge mass of talent if provided with the right mix of knowledge, the foundation developed would be strong enough to propel India into a strategic position globally. Research beneficial to mankind demands excellent teacher-student-industry pipeline that can keep pace with the rapidly advancing field. Unfortunately, academic health of life sciences in most of the universities in India is not up to the mark.