Biotech could beat Indian IT's growth record

Thursday, 26 June 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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India's biotechnology industry is poised to record substantial growth, perhaps even overtaking the robust IT industry, said participants at a seminar held in Washington.

WASHINGTON: India's share in the global biotechnology sector was expected to grow by 40 percent annually, with a projected 70 percent rise in exports, said participants at the seminar on "Biotechnology in India: Emerging Opportunities for Partnerships".

The number of biotech industries was also expected to grow by about 100 percent every year until 2005, they said.

The participants were 22 senior Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) biotechnology delegates, including Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, co-chairman of the U.S.-India Biotechnology Alliance, chairman of CII's National Committee on Biotechnology and chairman and managing director of Biocon India.

Rapid growth was also foreseen for India's pharmaceutical industry, expected to become a $25 billion industry with a market capitalisation of about $150 billion by 2010, the participants said.

In the agriculture sector, significant growth is seen with genetically modified Bt cotton and huge potential for improvement of other crops, including tomatoes and potatoes, they added.

India's biotechnology industry currently comprises 110 units in the healthcare products sector, 140 units in agriculture and about 300 units in industrial and other biotech products sector. Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai and New Delhi are fast becoming the hubs of the industry, participants noted.

The seminar was organised primarily to dispel misconceptions in the U.S. about India as a destination for investment and business as also to demonstrate specific business opportunities in the country. Key areas of discussion were outsourcing, bio-informatics and contract research, agri-biotech, financing bio-ventures, clinical research and business partnering.

In her keynote address, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said India's biotechnology industry envisions attracting $2 billion investment to become among the top three countries in agri-biotech and among the top five in health science biotech.

Talking about "India's bio-vision", she said it would involve building a $5 billion biotechnology business segment and developing a $4 billion export market. This could provide employment to one million scientists and engineers, besides throwing open a $1 billion business segment for outsourced research and development (R&D).

India could also build world-class clinical capabilities and generate $1.5 billion revenues through clinical trials, she added.

Mazumdar Shaw, considered a "biotech guru" in India, said the availability of high quality intellectual capital and low cost of R&D should be highlighted to attract investment in the fast-growing industry.

She said human resources comprising a large English-speaking skill base of three million graduates, 700,000 postgraduates and 1,500 PhDs qualified in bio-sciences and engineering each year were a huge advantage for India.

It is estimated that in the U.S., 15 percent of scientists engaged in pharma/biotech R&D are of Indian origin. The Indian biotech sector currently employs 25,000 R&D scientists.

To allay fears on IPR (intellectual property rights) issues, Mazumdar Shaw said the sector was urging the Indian government to evolve fiscal and regulatory policies that alleviate capital intensive research and manufacturing, long gestation timelines for product commercialisation and investments required in patenting and technology licensing.

The Indian biotech sector, she added, was committed to the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and TRIPS (trade-related intellectual property rights). She said patent protection laws have also been strengthened to enable drug companies to protect their products.

D. Balasubramanian, director of research at the Hyderabad Eye Research Foundation, spoke of how Indian biotechnology companies have developed important and valuable products for healthcare with globally competitive technologies that meet the highest international quality standards.

The Indian biotechnology sector, although nascent at present and accounting for a mere two percent of the global market, was poised for exponential growth over the next five years with an expected market share of 10 percent, he said. Indigenous biotech products and services at present account for approximately $150 million.

During the session on bio-informatics, M. Vidyasagar of Tata Consultancy Services said many Indian companies have already forayed into the North American market and started developing both partnering and contractual arrangements with U.S. companies.

It is envisaged that this market segment alone would generate revenues for Indian companies to the tune of $500 million over the next five years, he said.

Source: IANS

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