Gateway to explore India for biotech business
Vijaya K – Bangalore
The most awaited three-day Asia’s premier biotech event Bangalore Bio 2003 will be flagged off on April 15. The third annual event hosted by the Government of Karnataka and organised by the Vision Group on Biotechnology is double the size of last year. With over 100 companies participating, from both India and overseas, the tradeshow is expected to draw an overwhelming response. Considered as an approved event in India by the US Department of Commerce, the event anticipates highest VC funding for start-ups. The event has also got ITPO approval for exhibitors to showcase their products and services.
India’s biotech potential
India offers a huge market for biotechnology. Trends reveal that India will attract more than $200 million in the next five years in biotechnology. The Indian biotech industry is expected to grow at a rapid pace and the growth will primarily result from the increasing R&D collaborations of Indian companies with foreign and domestic firms. Many factors have been instrumental in fuelling the growth of the biotech industry in India viz., low cost of manufacturing and innovation as compared to those in developed markets, government support wherein the DBT funds several R&D projects across India, state governments’ initiatives to encourage entrepreneurs to set up biotech business in their states and R&D infrastructure owned by government agencies like ICMR, CSIR and DST.
According to Ms Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, founder and CEO of the Bangalore-based Biocon India Group, ‘‘A large reservoir of scientific human resource, cost competitive innovation and fast developing clinical capabilities provide Indian biotechnology with the vital ingredients for a recipe for success.’’ The segmentation of the Indian biotech sector includes biotherapeutics, vaccines, veterinary, agri biotech, contract R&D, bioengineering, bioinformatics, bioinstrumentation, diagnostics, enzymes, etc.
The Government of India constituted the Department of Biotechnology with an aim to promote and develop biotechnology at academic and industry levels. Several biotechnology focussed research institutes were established during the past three decades.The milestones of the evolution of biotech sector in India began in 1978 in Bangalore when the country’s first biotech company Biocon was established for industrial enzymes and later into biotherapeutics. From then onwards the country has never looked back.
Bangalore – An excellent biotech hub
Large base of scientific talent, world-class infrastructure, low cost manufacturing base and home to more than 70 biotech companies are some of the features that showcase Bangalore’s biotech skills. In fact Bangalore has been the largest recipient of VC funding in biotechnology in the country. From genomics to bioinformatics, pharma to human health and contract research to bioprocessing, Karnataka’s rich biocluster offers synergies for research and growth that are unparalleled in the country.
The state also provides excellent opportunities for contract research partnerships, the first one being Syngene International in set up in 1994 followed by Aurigene, Genotypic Technology, etc. With its concentration on cutting edge technology companies, Karnataka is uniquely positioned to exploit the potential that bioinformatics offers. Today we have Strand Genomics, Kshema Technologies, Molecular Connections and so on.
The academic and research infrastructure in the state offers a unique mix of talent, of particular interest to the biotechnology industry. Premier research institutes like the Indian Institute of Science, National Centre for Biological Sciences,/TIFR, NIMHANS, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology and the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health. The Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology set up by the Government of Karnataka together with ICICI Bank is a fine example of the state’s commitment to the future of biotechnology.
Bangalore Bio 2003: A forum for biz talks
The mega affair will represent fields of biotechnology, bioinformatics, agri biotech, institutional investors, VC funds, R&D organisations, clinical research organisations, contract research organisations, instrumentation companies, educational institutions, governmental organisations, healthcare and pharma companies, IT companies and allied organisations.
Apart from the US, companies from as many as 22 countries including France, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, Canada, UK, Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and some developing countries have also shown interest. ‘‘The strategy of marketing the event overseas last year itself has paid rich dividends,’’ Kulkarni had said while addressing recently. The event is also endorsed by the French Trade Commission.
Besides, six states of the country – Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Chandigarh and Kerala are expected to participate. Conferences for exploring business opportunities, sessions on showcasing institutional R&D, phytopharmaceuticals, platform technologies like gene arrays, round table on formulating models for industry, governmental responsibilities in shaping the biotechnology sector are some of the highlights of the event.
The conference has grown in international stature attracting some of the world’s best speakers to the event comprising 10 different sessions which will take place at the Indian Institute of Science.
The event will also comprise a B2B forum, a networking opportunity for buyers-sellers from across the world who would want to finalise their role in India’s growing biotech industry comprising three platforms- Investor 2003, Technology Transfer 2003 and Collaborations 2003 and CEO conclave, public session and Awards Nite. One of the highlights is the Knowledge Pavilion, a forum to showcase premier research labs of India such as CSIR, IISc, UAS, NCBS, IBAB etc and also top educational institutes, which will be put up along side the tradeshow. Primarily conceived to push forward India’s scientific and technical skills the forum will attract organisations and institutions to discover new opportunities of partnership with the Indian market. With high aims and bright hopes let us look forward to gain the best out of the event that can leverage the country’s biotech skills.
OPINIONS ‘Neglecting the engineering business in global bt opportunity’
Dr A P Kariath Managing Director
Sartorius India Pvt Ltd, Bangalore
The fast developing and growing market of biotechnology also involves a engineering business. As in the IT/software field, the country and enterprises are focussing on the softer part of biotechnology and not the hardware. The strength of India’s mechanical and chemical engineering combined with the process know-how available could turn us into a hardware giant. The average lead time for delivery of some hardware components in Europe and USA is nearly 12 to 18 months. This long delivery is on account of lack of technical manpower and high cost of manpower.
India has an advantage in these areas. Of course the quality of workmanship, use of right tools, good quality control expertise, non availability of good materials all need to be overcome. These are not any more barriers today. The excellent support the GOI is giving for imports of raw materials for exports is really remarkable. All that is required is to set up an export promotion council and aggressively market it. We need to wipe out the poor image of Indian engineering products. To this end we must set up a body to help assist the industries upgrade their knowledge of various standards related to this field, and provide assistance in quality improvements. Bangalore can become the sought after destination, for one more reason, if this is done. I am not sure if Bio 2003 is focussing on this.
‘Invest UK to showcase UK’s BT capabilities’
Amrita Sadarangani Science & Technology Advisor
British Trade Office
The High Commission’s objective with respect to the biotechnology industry is to promote the UK industry by helping British biotechnology companies to export to India and advising them on partnership opportunities in India. We also encourage investment in the UK by the top Indian biotechnology companies, as we welcome the new skills and technologies that the best foreign companies can bring to the UK industry.
InvestUK, the UK government’s national inward investment agency (covering the whole of the UK and helping the world’s companies to set up or expand business from a British base), is looking forward to Bangalore Bio 2003, where it will be participating for the third time as country pavilion sponsors. Invest UK will be working with partner agencies to showcase the UK’s world-class biotechnology and science base, and to promote the UK as the investment destination of choice for Indian biotechnology companies seeking a base in Europe.
Last year Invest UK, the Silver sponsors along with the Scottish Development International (SDI) held presentations and did receive several enquiries. SDI encourages and helps Scottish companies to develop their export capabilities and also promotes Scotland as an investment destination. Invest UK followed up its participation at Bangalore Bio 2002 by working with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in taking a business delegation comprising of Indian biotechnology and bioinformatics companies to the UK in September 2002. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh state government representatives were also part of the delegation.
The UK is known to have an open attitude towards cloning and embryonic stem cell research, two technologies that promise to revolutionise medicine. A favourable tax regime, with some of the lowest rates for income and capital gains, together with special incentives for investment in R&D, that encourage the commercialisation of scientific breakthroughs, ensure that the UK is likely to remain at the forefront of European biotechnology for many years to come.
Govt must set up spl funds to assist small cos
Dr Shama Bhat
Chairman and Managing Director
Bhat Bio-Tech India, BangaloreIndia can be promoted as a biotech hub by exhibiting the strengths of Karnataka and India such as quality manpower with excellent institutions, low cost of employees, low cost of maintenance compared to Western countries, good infrastructure, availability of raw materials. However, the major roadblocks are the need to have better teaching and practicals in biotech institution, supply of raw materials with no duty, easy to register as R&D institution, so that we can avail the concession on duty free imports of machineries and raw materials and approval of the products should be made easy. Now we have to pass through several agencies to get approval for recombinant products. It should be made single window.
It is also very difficult to get VC funds for small companies. Minimum funds are worth Rs 4 crores, which is not possible for small companies as this capital itself is too small. I feel that the government institutions must help or Government must set up special funds to bridge the gap.
The government should provide better infrastructure, such as road, transportation, electricity etc, set up Special Venture Capital to assist small companies, provide resources such as libraries for up-to-date information and provide seed money for new entrepreneurs. Industry should identify good projects and good specialist researcher in particular field and iron out the strategy with full co-operation from research institutions. Premier events like Bangalore Bio 2003 will be a major boost to the biotech industry by way of displaying the products to attract customers, interaction with prospective clients and bring together the companies, researchers, entrepreneurs, financiers etc.
Need to build VC funding
Nidhi Devanur Founder Chairman
Saint Life, Bangalore
The availability of talent pool, cost advantage are the major strengths for Indian biotech sector. But the major hurdles are lack of infrastructure and funds. Though the industry has good support from government agencies, we need to build VC funding immediately to support biotech entrepreneurs. However, Bangalore Bio 2003 will be a good platform to interact with potential customer country representatives.