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Sansad TV: Perspective- India’s Biotech Sector

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Introduction:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Biotech Startup Expo – 2022 in the national capital. Addressing the two day event PM Modi said India’s bio-economy has grown 8 times in the last 8 years and we are not too far from reaching the league of top-10 countries in Biotech’s global ecosystem. India is among the top 12 destinations for biotechnology globally and 3rd largest biotechnology destination in the Asia Pacific region. The Bio-economy’s contribution to the national GDP has also grown steadily in the past years. The biotech industry in India comprises over 5,000 companies and is home to a strong skilled resource pool due to the high number of science and technology graduates.

Scenario:

  • In India, the world’s 12th biggest biotechnology economy and having the second highest number of US Food and Drugs Administration (USFDA) – approved plants, the industry is not only excited at the revival in the US but also about its domestic prospects.
  • The Indian bioeconomy grew to $4.3 billion at the end of the 2013 financial year, up from $530 million in 2003, according to BioSpectrum, a widely-read trade publication in India.
  • Though concentrated in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, there are units sprouting across the country; currently some 350 companies are in operation.
  • The bio-pharmaceutical sector, which includes vaccines, medical devices and stem cells, is the main driver of India’s biotechnology growth, generating close to 63 per cent of the industry’s total revenue in 2013.

Relevance in India:

  • Applications of Biotechnology in Medicine
    • Biotechnology techniques are used in medicine for diagnosis and treating different diseases. It gives opportunities for the people to protect themselves from dangerous diseases.
    • The field of Biotechnology, genetic engineering has introduced techniques like gene therapy, recombinant DNA technology and polymerase chain reaction
    • Genetic modification in mosquitoes can solve the problems of epidemic diseases such as dengue and malaria
    • Artificial insemination is the artificial introduction of semen into the reproductive tract of a female animal. It is used extensively in breeding animals, such as sheep and cattle
    • Medical researchers believe that stem cell therapy has the potential to dramatically change the treatment of human disease.
    • Stem cell transplantation was first used in the treatment of blood disorders and it was a breakthrough.
  • Applications of Biotechnology in Agriculture
    • Biotechnology has played major role in agriculture by altering genes, studying and cloning various crops in order to provide better quality products of foods ultimately improving our lives.
    • Hybrid Seeds, Artificial Seeds, Photosynthesis improver, Stress resistant crops and plants, Bio-fertilisers, Bio-pesticides are some of the potential applications.
    • Potential advantages that biotechnology can confer across a wide range of agricultural applications are in areas such as livestock management, storage of agricultural products and sustaining current crop yields, while reducing the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
    • Biotechnology offers a very promising alternative to synthetic foods and an improvement on conventional plant-breeding technologies.
  • Animal husbandry:
    • The application of biotechnology in this area, in increasing production efficiency through manipulation and control of physiological systems and improving the health and well-being of animals, assumes great significance.
    • Embryo transplantation, used with cattle, goats, pigs, and sheep, aims to increase the number of offspring from a quality female.
    • Cloning embryos to artificially produce genetic duplicates of an animal has also become possible.
    • Direct manipulation and alteration of an animal’s genetic material— genetic engineering—has the potential to produce even more drastic changes in animal breeding.
  • Application of Biotechnology in Food Processing
    • Biotechnology has a major application in the food sector.
    • Bread, cheese, wine, beer, yogurt, and vinegar are all made by culturing microorganisms and are really the oldest products of biotechnology.
    • It helps in improving the edibility, texture, and storage of the food; in preventing the attack of the food, mainly dairy, by the virus like bacteriophage.
    • Biotechnologists are also developing tests that will allow the detection of food-contaminating microorganisms and the toxins they produce, which may be present only in minute quantities.
    • Biotechnology also has applications in the detection of mutagens (substances that cause genetic mutations) in individual food products.
    • GM crops which have been approved for use in food items in select countries include corn, maize, soya, tomato, potato and papaya.
    • Latest innovations in biotechnology that fortify major staples with micro nutrients like vitamin A, zinc and iron can be game changers for hunger problem in India.
  • Environment:
    • Biotechnology can be used to tackle environmental issues like deforestation and air pollution
    • Biotechnology can help in finding out the level of Particulate Matter 2.5 in the air,
    • Biotechnology is already providing a clean and renewable alternative to traditional fossil fuels, the burning of which contributes to global warming.
    • The benefit of environmental biotechnology helps us to avoid the use of hazardous pollutants and wastes that affect the natural resources and the environment.
    • Biosensors, which combine a biological component (such as an enzyme) with various electronic components to trigger a circuit when a particular type of chemical is detected.

Government initiatives:

  • The Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India and RIKEN, Japan’s largest research organisation have signed memorandums of understanding (MoU) to launch joint research programs in the fields of biology, life sciences and material sciences.
  • UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the Association of Biotech Led Enterprises (ABLE) have signed a MoU to encourage and develop collaborative opportunities between Indian life sciences organisations and the UK.
  • The Drugs Controller General of India has approved Biocon Ltd to market its biosimilar ‘Trastuzumab’ developed jointly with the US drug-maker Mylan, for treating breast cancer.
  • The Government of India plans to set up National Institute of Biotic Stress Management for addressing plant protection issues will be established at Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

Conclusion:

  • Every new drug discovery or drug approval not only draws cheers from millions of victims of debilitating diseases but also adds value to biotechnology companies.
  • In a complex play of scientific progress and market forces, the biotechnology industry is recording growth that can rival the information technology industry boom of the 1990s.
  • India with its young workforce and a potential market for the end-products can look out for a bright future in the biotechnology sector.