India has made huge strides to emerge as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and is sticking to the target of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2024. While every sector is going the extra mile to achieve this target, the biotechnology sector is one of the key drivers for contributing to the target economy of the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 107th session of the Indian Science Congress in Bengaluru said, “We aim to develop India as a world-class $100-billion biomanufacturing hub by 2024.”
In the words of PM Modi, the growth story of India depends on its achievements in science and technology. India’s Biotechnology sector which is poised to grow exponentially over the next decades stands as the third-largest sector in Asia-Pacific with over $65 Billion. In the world, India is among the top 12 destinations for biotechnology and it is important to note that the sector plays a key role in the global vaccine market by supplying DPT, BCG, and measles vaccines.
The Millennium Biotech Policy
Former Chief Minister of Karnataka S. M. Krishna in his budget speech for the year 2000-2001 has said, “While Karnataka is the acknowledged leader in IT, I would like the State to lead the next revolution in Biotechnology. We have a critical mass of biotech companies and the best research institutions. The immediate challenge is how to nurture that innovation, promote entrepreneurship and facilitate effective technology transfer to the end-users.”
The introduction of Millennium Biotech Policy bolstered the Biotech ecosystem which has led Bengaluru to be India’s Biotech capital while Karnataka gained the first-mover advantage.
The Millennium Biotech Policy of 2001 had set out to galvanize the biotech industry in Karnataka to spread awareness about the investment opportunities in biotechnology, genomics, bioinformatics, biofuels, contract research. In order to sustain and maintain the present pre-eminent position of Karnataka and Bangalore in the field of biotechnology, the policy also provided specific infrastructure as well as enhanced human resources for the development of biotechnology and to encourage the growth of bioinformatics in Karnataka.
The Indian Biotechnology industry is estimated to reach a $150 bn target by 2025. The sector is divided into five major segments namely, BioPharma, BioAgriculture, BioIndustrial, and the combined segment of BioServices comprising BioIT, CROs, and Research Services.
Making India a Biotech Hub
The country has seen an immense improvement in the number and quality of its healthcare facilities over time. Much before any other country in the world, the Government of India in 1986 recognised the enormous potential of biotechnology and established a separate department committed to this branch of science. Due to this vision, India has successfully averted several preventable diseases. The unprecedented Covid situation posed a huge challenge but India promptly responded against the pandemic by introducing low-cost diagnostics, manufacturing PPE kits, masks & medical interventions and now conducting clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine. The immediate need for medical equipment led India towards opportunities as in less than 60 days from 100% imports, India attained self-sufficiency & achieved the position where the help was extended to neighbouring countries and the world.
How did India come so far? Over the last few years, the government emphasised innovation & welcomed entrepreneurs to build a vibrant innovation ecosystem. Aligning with this, various programmes have been launched like Startup India, Make in India which aided in repositioning, repurposing and re-energising to respond to the urgent needs.
Vibrant Biotechnology Ecosystem in India
India’s biotechnology sector accounts for approximately 3% of the global biotech industry. Over the years, the sector has seen an upward trend from $1.1 billion in 2003 to a mammoth $64 billion sector in 2019. The government acknowledges the need for the sector’s continuous transformation and growth and has provided a highly skilled research force backed by the best of minds who led to the development of generic and affordable medicare.
Over 2,700 biotech start-ups are present in India and a 10,000-mark is expected to be touched by 2024. These biotech companies are responsible for generating employment and contributing to the country’s economy and facilitating a sustainable environment.
Atmanirbhar Bharat: Resonance with Biotechnology Sector
The government’s target investment in R&D is a reflection to keep the industry money flow going so that new ideas, innovations, and discoveries can flourish. Established under the Department of Biotechnology in 2012, the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), plays a crucial role in bridging innovators and funders and enabling ideas to become a reality.
The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has posed the need to frame research and development as a key priority in the need for building a self-reliant India. This has great resonance for the biotechnology sector. The PM Modi’s message of Atma Nirbhar Bharat will lead to an entrepreneur-friendly ecosystem in India wherein energetic youths and their innovations will thrive.