Kerala plans biotech park to attract pharma companies

Tuesday, 25 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs   |    4 Comments
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A late starter, Kerala is moving ahead with plans to set up a biotechnology park in its capital Thiruvananthapuram to attract pharmaceutical companies.

NEW DELHI: "A 26-acre plot has been identified where we plan to set up basic infrastructure, including an incubator, for a biotech park," R.V. Thampan, director of the Kerala-based Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), told IANS.

"Things have started moving, with the state government allocating 300 million for the project and an equal amount likely from the central government through the biotechnology department.

"When the biotech park at Kazhakoottam comes up, we will be the nodal centre for operations," said Thampan.

Kerala is hopeful that the biotech park will be functional within a year and attract pharmaceutical companies that use research being done by state-owned institutions in the state for application.

"A lot of our research has come to the application stage. This includes research on infectious diseases like tuberculosis, cholera and Hepatitis C.

"We also have considerable work being done in the field of plant molecular biotechnology, environment biotechnology and molecular human genetics, particularly in the field of genome analysis of tribal population. Neurobiology and cancer biology are other fields in which work is being done," said Thampan.

Though Kerala had sought to attract investment during the Global Investors Meet in January in the field of biotechnology, nothing tangible emerged.

Right now, some groups in the IT park in Thiruvananthapuram are collaborating with scientists on software to help them speed up work. These software tools would be geared for diagnostic purposes such as disease detection.

Given Kerala's IT strength, the planners see good scope for investment in bio-informatics.

Thampan said there was tremendous potential to attract pharmaceutical companies for applications of herbal medicine research conducted by the Thiruvananthapuram-based Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI).

"The centre has done a lot of groundwork on tribal systems of medicine using plant sources," said Thampan, who made a presentation on the biotech investment potential of Kerala at a meet here organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham).

"At our institute, which is owned by the state government, a lot of lab level work is being done in the field of in-vitro development of antibodies/vaccines.

"The establishment of a biotech park would help us explore if the basic research can be brought to application level," said Thampan, who has been doing research for over two decades on estrogen, the female sex hormone.

Two major human diseases among women -- breast cancer and osteoporosis post menopause -- are directly or indirectly related to hormone problems, he said.

"We hope to give evidence in the next two years of agents that lead to these diseases," said Thampan.

Source: IANS

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