Dr Renu Swarup, managing director of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) (File Photo)
Much enthused on the completion of successful three years of BIRAC, its MD, Dr Renu Swarup doesn't want the organisation to get complacent due to achievements. She wants the momentum to continue for achieving long term goals of contributing to India's economy through biotech entreprenuership. Read on for details:
Q: How satisfied are you with the BIRAC's achievements in last few years?
BIRAC has just completed three years now which generally is too short a time for any normal organization to judge it. But in this context, BIRAC came in to fill the vaccum and thus can't claim the benefit of short time as we had to hit the ground running. The targets that BIRAC set for itself are the same that are for the country which are huge and ambitious. But at the end of this period if you ask me whether we are satisfied, I would say we have achieved a good pace. We got a good response from startup community and overall industry. But having achieved what we wanted, there is a lot to be done. If BIRAC says that much has been done then complacency would set in. So it is important for us to keep looking what the next target is and we always set a target that is higher than where we stand today. If you see, the BIRAC began with a clean slate and within three years down the line, we have managed to at least create a vibrant ecosystem.
Q: What is the significance of global and Indian partnerships for you? How can these help in taking the BIRAC to next level?
BIRAC operates within those broad three verticals that we have created for ourselves. And that is our underlying tagline to help innovate, empower and enable the biotech start ups in the innovation ecosystem. While we operate to fulfil that goal, we do that is through financing, mentorship, networking, enabling services. However, I find the most critical as building partnership as these bring in that value to not only the whole system but also help bring back the best practices back to us. Elsewhere they are also able to mobilize the funding that is required. That is one part of the initiative that BIRAC has taken. Our partnership with Gates Foundation and Welcome Trust has been fruitful for Indian led projects .These are all Indian innovators and funding comes to them for niche areas of priority to both sides.
Be it the Grand Challenges that we did with Gates Foundation which has already done three rounds. We did one each on agriculture, re inventing toilets and malnourished children. Similarly, with Welcome Trust we did a call on infectious diseases. So, that we have taken forward. In addition, we are also doing partnerships for collaborating with overseas scientists. Indo-French collaboration, CEFIPRA, is one example where French government has put in equal set of funding that matches ours. We fund one academia and one industry in other country and vice versa. Not only we get matching funding but it helps to connect our innovators with their counterparts. We would like to expand this model to many more countries in future. It will help our young startups and innovators to access the markets that are strategically important to them. With the UK, we of course have an excellent partnership and we want to expand to Sweden, Finland, Australia where DBT already has excellent partnerships.
Q: With no increase in budget allocations, don't you feel limitations in expanding your operations?