In spite of slowdown and
swine flu scare
The ninth edition of Bangalore BIO, India’s biggest
biotechnology show hit the right cord with its theme
“Biotechnology Beyond Boundaries—the Promise of
The three-day event (June18-20, 2009) comprised Multi-Track
Conferences, International Trade Show, BioPartnering, CEO Conclave, Bio
IP Zone, Bio Excellence Award and a host of other events. The objective
clearly was to promote entrepreneurship.
Bangalore BIO continued its growth track in spite of various challenges
due to the global economic slowdown. This year more than 700 delegates
from across the globe participated in the six focused tracks and 22
conference sessions. More than 100 Indian and international speakers
participated in these conference sessions.
The event also witnessed over 400 biotech, pharma and biosupplier
companies exploring business opportunities. The 2009 exhibition
attracted over 110 national and international organizations showcasing
their innovation. There were 15 organizations from Germany, apart from
exhibitors from UK, Australia, Singapore, France, Spain, Italy,
Holland, US, Canada, Cuba, Malaysia, Japan, Iran and UAE.
BioPartnering, the first of its kind initiative by the event organizers
and Technology Vision Group (TVG), of the Government of Karnataka got a
resounding response. More than 400 business meetings were conducted
through this initiative.
The show was inaugurated by Prithviraj Chavan, India’s
newly-appointed minister of science and technology, who took charge in
came. He saw. He inspired.
Dr Richard J Roberts, “Nobel
Laureate” addressed the plenary session at Bangalore BIO
2009—India’s largest biotech show. His
anecdote-filled talk essentially showcased the potential of biotech to
the industry and emphasized that the future is biotechnology.
There is no better person than Dr Roberts to bust the commonly held
(mis) conceptions on the horrors of GM food, and other such political
considerations that science and scientists have to often contend with.
He bagged the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1993, for discovery of
introns in eukaryotic DNA and the mechanism of gene-splicing. He showed
the world that genes can indeed be split.
So, when a scientist like him says, plant breeding is a form of genetic
modification and that introducing one gene about which you know a lot
is comparatively much lesser risk than cross-breeding at random with
little knowledge—you have to believe it.
Dr Roberts, who also leads the cutting-edge scientific work at New
England BioLabs in the US also stressed on the importance of taking
advantage of serendipity in the course of scientific research. Keeping
an open mind and looking for solutions is what really drives science,
he stated recounting how BioLabs decoded the genome of filariasis bug
and discovered that it had not one but three
genomes—chromosomal, mitrochondrial and of another bug called
Wolbachia, which is actually critical to the survival of the filariasis
This was a very important finding given that according to WHO, more
than a billion people across 80 countries are at risk of Filariasis.
Close to 150 million people are already infected with this disease that
causes chronic suffering and disability. One-third of the people
infected with the disease live in India, one third are in Africa and
most of the remainder are in South Asia, the Pacific and the Americas.
“There is so much of the unknown in life mechanisms, that a
lot of Nobel Prizes are yet to be won in biotechnology,”
quipped Dr Roberts.
Looking ahead beyond 2010 Dr Roberts elaborated that the areas that one
can focus on include GM foods, bioenergy, synthetic biology, stem
cells, and personalized medicine. He also advised, thinking
“small” is good. As far as solutions go there is no
one-size-fits- all and innovation comes in small packages, often.
of the Indian Biotech Industry and CSIR discussed the ways to gear up
the Indian biotech industry to face the global challenges. Industry
leaders mulled over “The strategies for Indian Biotech in the
new economic world order.” When
‘melt-down’ is the global reality in every sector,
Indian biotech industry holds lot of promise to cater to the needs of
food and health for the people, according to the panelists.
- When India
is upgrading itself, there is an immediate need to fine tune HR and
other resources. India is still facing shortage of highly motivated
scientists with global outlook. Finishing schools on the lines of IT
industry are creating more awareness towards the IPR environment, which
is the need of the hour.
- India has
unparalleled opportunity in commercializing IPRs. Most of the hurdles
in India in realizing the true potential of IPs are self imposed and
avoidable. There should be a change in seeing the science from
technology perspective to commerce perspective. Experience of the
people who are filing IPRs is not up to the mark. Industry should build
capacity to generate more IPs from business point of view than
scientists’ perspective. The walls between IP management
offices and scientists should go.
medical insurance coverage, growing economy and per capita income, huge
number of disease population, and increasing labs and CROs make India a
potential market for in vitro diagnostics (IVDs). Indigenous
manufacturing of raw materials, automation of production processes, and
use of lab-on-chip technology to bring multiple markers into a single
platform will help reduce the cost of IVD in India.
- India is
renowned for its generics industry but if India has to gain further
reputation as a biopharma powerhouse, it has to start innovating.
India’s strength lies in its numerous scientists who can
develop amazing array of drugs, if given a chance.
for government support
- Srikumar Suryanarayanan, direct general, ABLE:
“In order to catch up with the market and shorten
lab-to-market cycle, Indian CROs should not settle for lesser standards
that are normally acceptable to Indian levels. They should think of
meeting the stringent standards in the world, if they really want to
compete in the International markets. Coming to agri biotech, the
benefits are more local and immediate. So we should take forward the
success that we have seen to food crops.”
- Dr Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson, Karnataka’s
Vision Group on Biotechnology & CMD Biocon: “Chemical
genetics market mind-set has to be changed to biological genetics
mind-set, as the development path of these two are different. Emerging
marketing strategy to regulated market strategy is the need of the
hour, as proprietary technologies under strict regulatory regime can
only enter global market.
- Dr Rajat Goyal, country director, International AIDS
Vaccine Initiative: “The lack of availability of vaccines,
R&D investment, regulatory responsiveness and public interest
as the main reasons for the lack of novel vaccine development in India.
- Philips Mendes, Innovation Law, Australia:
“Licensor and Licensee need to focus more on their respective
interests instead of positions. Never dive into a negotiation, you may
deny many opportunities to prepare thoroughly. Information shared and
gathered plays crucial role in licensing and true value realization by
both the parties.”
- Dr PM Murali, managing director of Evolva: “With
drug costs escalating every year, there’s every
possibility of sub-$1billion drug coming out of India in
biotechnology industry wants the government to recognize the
benefits that have come from this sector to date and the potential of
this sector to positively impact on the economy, environment,
agriculture and healthcare, and insists that further investment will
deliver benefits in a much higher level.
Prithviraj Chavan, the minister of state (independent charge) for
science and technology, during his visit at the ninth edition of
Bangalore Bio had an exclusive interaction with the biotechnology
industry leaders during a closed door roundtable. The
roundtable, organized by Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises
(ABLE), was convened to gather inputs from diverse segments of the
biotechnology industry as to the current issues concerning it, with a
view to determining forward recommendations.
The discussion had the who’s who of the Indian biotech
industry—Dr Shrikumar Suryanarayan, DG, ABLE; Dr Kiran
Mazumdar Shaw, CMD, Biocon; Dr Villoo Morawala Patell, CMD, Avesthagen;
Dr Vijay Chandru, MD, Strand Life Sciences; Anuradha Acharya,
CEO, Ocimum Biosolutions; Dr KK Narayanan, MD, Metahelix Life sciences;
PM Murali, CEO, Evolva Biotech; Pramod Chaudhary, CEO, Praj
Industries; Sarath Naru, MD, Venture East India Fund
Advisors; Dr Samir Brahmachari, DG, CSIR; Arvind Jaanu, MD, KBITS; and
Narayanan Suresh, group editor, BioSpectrum.
The primary focus of the discussion at the industry roundtable was on
HR issues and mechanisms to reduce hurdles in the regulatory system.
The deliberation that followed was multidimensional in the sense that
the view points of all the segments—biopharma, bioagri,
bioinformatics, biofuel, services, venture capital companies were
Shrikumar Suryanarayan said, “There is an urgent need for
world class institutions. The institutes should strengthen basic
sciences like immunology, cell biology, recombinant technology, and
government can play a significant role in this space.”
Dr Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said, “The government should
take serious steps in attracting NRI scientists. A proper mechanism
should be employed to attract them here.” The lack
of skilled manpower was predicted to slow down the growth of this
industry, which was otherwise racing ahead at 30 percent growth in the
past three years and at 18 percent this year.
The other issue raised at the industry roundtable was on the structure
and efficiency of the Indian government policies and the regulatory
system. Dr Shaw expressed that the Indian policies should be
more R&D enabling and business enabling. She further said that
all the people in the regulatory system are not that knowledgeable to
create an innovative ecosystem.” The DST should stress on
local innovative solutions. Biotech being a high risk business it
requires better financial facilitation and incentives—a must
for innovation and entrepreneurship, she added.
Highlighting the issues facing the services sector, Anuradha Acharya
said, “We face a lot of problems in running a services
company. More than hundred shipments are done every day which results
in plenty of paper works. The process should be made more simple and
smooth. Also, the duties and taxes are very high.”
While Dr Villoo Morawala-Patell agreed to the point, she brought to the
table another basic problem, about the very structure of the Indian
stock market listing, She suggested that the government should change
the financial model to allow research focused companies which were yet
to reach large scale revenues and also to list on the stock exchanges.
It should let the people decide their investment choice than the
Narayanan Suresh, group editor, BioSpectrum, highlighted the incoherent
voices emerging from within the government and regulators about the
importance of genetically modified (GM) food crops. He urged the need
for the scientific ministries and experts to stand up and speak their
mind on the importance of biotechnology. He pointed out that the
benefits of India’s biotech industry were mostly enjoyed by
foreigners as two-thirds of the industry revenue came from experts. He
stressed the need to increase access to affordable medicare
to Indian citizens and called for schemes which include biotech
vaccines and drugs in the National Immunization Program. Countries like
Bangladesh have included Hepatitis B and other important vaccines in
the national program, while India has ignored these India-made products
that are used widely in over 100 other countries. n