Make in India policy has given a special impetus to the growth of the biotech sector

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister, Science and Technology, shares with BioSpecturm the prospects and plans for the biotechnology and medical technology sectors

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Does the growth of biotech industry in recent years match up to your forecast? How does the future of biotech in this country look?
India has today emerged has the fastest growing large economy in 2015 and looks forward to a growth of 8-10 percent during the next decade. The biotechnology industry has grown at a CAGR of 20 percent and in the next decade, we expect this to rise to 30 percent to achieve the ambitious target of USD100 billion by 2025. The Indian biotech industry is today geared up to meet the various challenges, and the government's Make in India and Start-up India missions are contributing greatly to this. The Make in India mission aims to increase growth in the manufacturing sector by 12-14 percent and create 100 million additional jobs by 2022. Biotechnology is one of the key identified growth sectors.

Critics from the industry feel that the regulatory regime is a big dampener. Do you see any change in the scenario over time?
Regulation is an important component contributing to the biotechnology sector. In the last two years, special effort has been made to ensure that the regulatory system is made more transparent and is at par with global best practices. Technically, the regulator has been strengthened and all effort has been made to reduce the timeline for decision making.

Three years ago DBT had said that diagnostics will be the next big focus of DBT. What are the steps taken in that direction? Which are the other priority areas?
The medical devices and diagnostics sector is one of the key sectors identified for the growth of the biotech industry. The medical technology industry in India is currently the fourth largest in Asia and is growing at 10-12 percent annually. My ministry is giving a special focus to this sector and we hope that India will be able to capture at least 10 percent of the global share by 2025.
The Department of Biotechnology has promoted this sector by supporting various programmes, which has resulted in affordable products of societal and public health relevance. This area has seen a large number of successful scientists, entrepreneurs and young start-ups building their own enterprises. The complete value chain from product innovation to commercialization has been facilitated and today we have about 40 medical devices and diagnostics, some of which have received USFDA clearances.

What are your views on the government's Make in India policy? How is the private sector, specially biotech companies, responding to this?
As mentioned above, the Make in India policy has given a special impetus to the growth of the biotech sector. Because of the focus by the government there has been a special emphasis on facilitating investment, fostering innovations ease of doing business. The private sector has responded very positively. In the recent budget 2016-17, a number of announcements have been made which have been important to promote this sector, such as service tax exemption to all BIRAC incubators, special incentives for indigenous IP protection under patent box, investment opportunities for startup etc.

Are you satisfied with the outcome on various projects for boosting R&D and PPP in biotech industry? How do you view relevance of bioclusters for the future?
The effort made by the government to promote R&D and PPP in the biotech industry over the last few years is paying a rich dividend. The Department of Biotechnology and its Public Sector - Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) have provided a special fillip and today we have more than 500 SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs that have been supported through more than 600 projects and government investment of USD 250 million. Nearly 50 affordable products and technologies and more than 100 new intellectual properties have been generated.
I am confident that we will see more industry-academia partnership and translational research taken forward. We already have three bioclusters set up in Bangalore, Mohali and Faridabad and two more are being developed. This cluster approach is very important to connect the academic research institutes, industries and entrepreneurs and provide the critical ecosystem required for translational research.

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