crops poised for second wave of growth: ISAAA report
Biotech crops are poised for a second wave of strong adoption that will
drive sustained global growth through the end of the second decade of
commercialization (2006-2015), according to the International Service
for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
In 2008, three new countries and 1.3 million new farmers were able to
experience the benefits associated with biotech crops. Additionally,
total planted area grew 10.7 million hectares, according to the ISAAA
brief on Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2008. ISAAA
has been tracking global biotech crop adoption trends since 1996.
In its annual study, ISAAA found that 13.3 million farmers in a record
25 countries planted 125 million hectares of biotech crops last year,
the sixth largest growth spurt in 13 years of reporting.
Most notably, in 2008 biotech farming began in the African nations of
Egypt and Burkina Faso. Africa is considered the “final
frontier” for biotech crops as it has perhaps the greatest
need and most to gain. In 2008, Egypt planted 700 hectares of Bt maize
and Burkina Faso planted 8,500 hectares of Bt cotton. They join South
Africa, which since 1998 has benefited from biotech cotton, maize and
“Future growth prospects are encouraging,” said
Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA and author of the report.
“The positive experiences in these new regional footholds in
south, north and west Africa will help lead the way for neighboring
countries to learn by example. Additionally, political leaders globally
are increasingly viewing biotech enhanced crops as a key part of the
solution to critical social issues of food security and
For example, G-8 leaders in 2008 for the first time recognized the
significance of biotech crops and called to “accelerate
research and development and increase access to new agricultural
technologies to boost agriculture production; we will promote
science-based risk analysis, including on the contribution of seed
varieties developed through biotechnology.” The European
Union also has acknowledged that biotech crops “can play an
important role in mitigating the effects of the food crises.”
“Biotech crops make two important contributions to global
food security. First, they increase yields, which increase food
availability and supply. Second, they reduce production costs, which
will also ultimately help reduce food prices. With 9.2 billion people
to be fed by 2050, biotechnology plays a crucial role in helping
satisfy the growing demand,” added Clive James.
Drought is the single largest constraint to increase productivity.
Drought-tolerant crops, maize in particular, are an emerging reality
with seeds expected to be commercialized in the United States by 2012
or sooner and by 2017 in Africa. By the end of the second decade of
commercialization in 2015, ISAAA predicts that four billion accumulated
acres will have been planted. Further, 200 million hectares of biotech
crops annually will be planted in 40 countries.
Seeds opens new biotech and breeding laboratories
The crop biotech and breeding laboratories of Rasi Seeds were
inaugurated on February 14, 2009 at Rasi R&D center in Attur,
Tamil Nadu. The new crop breeding facility of Rasi Seeds was built up
with an investment of Rs 10 crore. The R&D facility spreads
across 40,000 sq. ft. of area and it encompasses laboratories for
biotech research, crops research, cold storage facility for germplasm
conservation, insect bioassay laboratory, library and documentation,
and other facilities. The R&D center also has infrastructure
facilities that include research farm of 140 acres comprising of
experimental fields for germplasm evaluation and breeding of crops. A
5,500 sq. m transgenic greenhouse, seed quality control laboratory and
modern seed processing facilities are also part of the crop biotech and
Dr CD Mayee, chairman, ASRB, New Delhi, inaugurated the new breeding
facility of Rasi Seeds. Dr KK Tripathi, advisor, DBT, Government of
India, New Delhi; Dr. B C Viraktamath, project director, DRR,
Hyderabad; Sekhar Natarajan, regional lead, Monsanto; Prabhakar Rao,
president, Seed Association of India and Uday Singh, vice president,
Seed Association of India were also present at the inauguration
Delivering the welcome address Dr Ramasami, chairman and
managing director, Rasi Group of Companies said, “Crop
improvement using conventional methods, particularly for increasing the
yield has reached a plateau and is static. In order to exploit the full
potential of crops for increasing the yield and to improve the product
quality, and to meet the needs of the ever growing population that is
expected to be more than 1.2 billion shortly in India, new tools like
marker technology need to be incorporated into crop improvement
Commenting on the scope of marker breeding facility Dr Ramasami added,
“Now we are in the genomic era. With the rice crop fully
sequenced, most of the plant breeding labs have been converted into
molecular breeding labs using the DNA technology in their crop
improvement schemes worldwide. I believe that the marker-assisted
breeding has equal or more scope than transgenic technology in new
cultivator development with desirable agronomic traits.”
“Within a span of eight years Cry 1 Ac gene has totally
transformed the Indian agriculture sector. Bt cotton has become
inevitable, and if one gene is capable of bringing a huge
transformation what will happen if more such genes are introduced?
Public-private partnership helps to enhance the research and
development for the upliftment of agriculture. Our ultimate goal is to
protect the welfare of the farmers,” opined Dr C D Mayee in
his inaugural address.
A seminar on “opportunities and challenges in marker assisted
breeding” was also organized after the inaugural function.
The seminar covered topics like marker assisted breeding in rice,
vegetables and genome-based molecular breeding of crop plants; experts
from the concerned fields presented the papers on these topics.
Seed industry leaders, leading scientists from various institutions in
India and students from various agriculture universities in Tamil Nadu
participated in the event.
Biotechnics to set up new vaccine complex
Shantha Biotechnics Ltd has laid the foundation for a new
state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing complex at Muppi Reddy Pally
village, Medak district in Andhra Pradesh. Shantha will manufacture its
next generation vaccines in this complex. The first vaccine to be
manufactured in the premises will be from the enteric vaccine portfolio
like cholera and rotavirus vaccines.
The new vaccine complex will be located in a sprawling 40 acre of land
in the industrial park. This facility will have the capacity to
manufacture more than 100 million doses of vaccines per year. The
company has plans to initially invest Rs 500 million with future
investments going upto Rs 1,000 million. The new facility is part of
Shantha Biotechnics strategic expansion plans focused on servicing
existing and growing market demands for its range of vaccines.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Varaprasad Reddy, managing director,
Shantha Biotechnics, said, “The new vaccine complex will
address the capacity constraints of our existing facilities to
manufacture range of enteric vaccines and the new generation
pneumococal vaccine, which are under development. Shantha has obtained
World Health Organization (WHO)-Geneva pre-qualification for its
pentavalent vaccine in the current year and has started supplying the
vaccine to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Shantha
has the distinction of receiving the European Medicines Agency (EMEA)
certification for one of its products in the current year”.
Shantha is currently focusing its R&D efforts in the
development of novel vaccines like HPV and novel therapeutic
Lifesciences strengthens ties with Pfizer
TCG Lifesciences Ltd, a research services and informatics company
operating out of India, has announced that it has extended its master
services agreement with Pfizer, which strengthens its strategic
relationship with the global pharmaceutical company.
TCG Lifesciences has been a preferred research service provider to
Pfizer primarily in the field of discovery chemistry and would now also
be providing integrated research services, through its one box model,
covering areas like synthesis of monomer and templates, medicinal
chemistry, parallel medicinal chemistry, cGMP synthesis duly supported
by ADME and biological screening to enhance Pfizer's drug
discovery pipeline and shorten development time lines.
“A high-quality and flexible working model is critical to
Pfizer's research. Our strong relationships with leading
Asian CROs, such as TCG Lifesciences, enable us to tap into their
scientific talent pool to further the success of our research
programs,” said Rick Connell, vice president, head of
external research solutions, Pfizer.
Swapan Bhattacharya, managing director, TCG Lifesciences said,
“We are excited at the prospects of supporting Pfizer across
the drug discovery and development value chain in an integrated manner.
This development is of great importance for us as it signifies our
competences in providing innovation-based integrated research services
from early stage discovery to kilo scale production of first-in-man
researchers simplify microcephaly diagnosis
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have located a
new gene that plays an important role in causing microcephaly, a brain
disorder that results in reduced brain size and poor mental faculty,
mainly in India. The findings of the research will help to develop a
regular screening tool to detect this severe disorder at the foetal
stage itself and identify individuals who are carriers for the
Microcephaly is a hereditary disorder, four genes were so
far known to cause this disease, but the IISc-NIMHANS joint research
team located a fifth gene, STIL, that has a vital role behind
this disorder in India. The research team was led by Prof. Arun Kumar,
associate professor, department of molecular reproduction, development
and genetics, IISc, Bangalore, with Dr Satish C Girimaji as clinical
collaborator from National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro
Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore and Mahesh R Duvvari as technical
assistant from IISc, Bangalore.
While commenting on the diagnosis process of microcephaly Prof. Arun
Kumar said, “Due to the reliable late stage diagnosis during
the third trimester of pregnancy by ultrasound measurement of fetal
head, even if a mother knows that her foetus is having microcephaly,
the complexity in the legal procedure and the risk factor
don't allow her to abort the foetus. The new gene, STIL,
simplifies the diagnosis process and enables us to identify the
symptoms of microcephaly at an early stage than ever before.”
Councils UK collaborates with DST
Research Councils UK (RCUK) has announced £12 million of
funding for collaborations between British universities and
institutions in India, China, and the US. Three large-scale UK-India
collaborations have been agreed as part of this scheme, and will be
jointly funded by the RCUK and the Department of Science of Technology
A three-year, £3 million grant, has been made to Aston
University and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. The project
aims to deliver sustainable decentralized bioenergy for both the
developed and developing world. About £1.5 million has been
awarded to the University of Leeds, the Indian Agricultural Research
Institute and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for over a
period of four years. This project aims to enhance existing
interactions to exploit and develop advances in biotechnology for the
benefit of agriculture sector. This initiative will also facilitate a
two-way interaction between Indian and the UK in the field of science
and applied agriculture.
A two-year grant of £1.5 million has been made to the
University of Nottingham, the Indian Institute of Management,
Bangalore, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. The three
partners aim to create a step-change in collaborative innovation in
target identification, drug discovery, drug delivery and manufacturing.
They will build on existing collaborations with the goal of producing
clinical and commercial benefits from patent protected research.
genome will improve dryland crops
The announcement of the unraveling of the genome of sorghum, one of the
mandate crops of the International Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), will strengthen the institute's
research for the improvement of sorghum and other food crops. The
global team of scientists that reported the genome sequencing was led
by Prof. Andrew Paterson of the University of Georgia, USA, and
included ICRISAT's cereal breeder, Dr C Tom Hash.
Sorghum is the second food crop from the grass family to have its
genome fully sequenced. The first one was rice. Sorghum is the first
crop with the more efficient C4 photosynthesis system to be sequenced.
Sugarcane, maize and pearl millet are other grasses with the C4
photosynthesis system that should benefit from this.
Plants that have a C4 photosynthesis system have a competitive
advantage over plants possessing the more common C3 carbon fixation
pathway under conditions of drought and high temperatures.
While a significant portion of the water taken up by C3 plants is lost
through transpiration, this loss is much lower for C4 plants,
demonstrating their advantage in a dry environment.
Sorghum, a mandate crop of ICRISAT, is the fifth most important and
relatively drought tolerant cereal crop that is the dietary staple of
more than 500 million people in more than 30 countries of semi-arid
tropics. It is grown on 42 million hectares in 98 countries
of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
ICRISAT has been working for more than three decades for improving
sorghum for food and feed proposes. Furthermore, sweet
sorghum has emerged as a feedstock for ethanol production. It gives
food/feed, fodder and fuel, without significant trade-offs in any of
these uses in a production cycle. ICRISAT has pioneered the sweet
sorghum ethanol production technology, and its commercialization.
to initiate two AIDS vaccine candidates
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) announced plans to
initiate a Phase-I clinical trial to test a combination of two AIDS
vaccine candidates, ADVAX and TBC-M4, in a prime-boost regimen. The
trial will be conducted at two ICMR institutions, the National AIDS
Research Institute (NARI) in Pune, Maharashtra, and the Tuberculosis
Research Center (TRC) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. YRG CARE, Chennai, will
be collaborating with TRC for advocacy and community mobilization for
the Phase-I trial.
Prime-boost is a way of combining two different vaccine candidates with
the hope of getting a better response from the body's immune
system than giving either vaccine candidate alone. ADVAX, a plasmid DNA
AIDS vaccine candidate, will be used for priming the immune response.
TBC-M4, an AIDS vaccine candidate based on a vector built from
recombinant Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA), will be used to boost the
initial immune response generated by ADVAX. The trial will be conducted
under the aegis of a memorandum of understanding between the government
of India-through the ICMR and the National AIDS Control
Organization (NACO)-and the not-for-profit International AIDS
Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).
IAVI, in collaboration with Imperial College, London, has recently
initiated a Phase-I clinical trial in London, the UK to test a
prime-boost combination of ADVAX and TBC-M4. The UK and India trials
are two separate trials and will use different modes of administration
of the ADVAX candidate, different dosages, and different vaccination
regimens. Collectively, the results of the trials from both countries
will help determine whether further development of these AIDS vaccine
candidates in a prime-boost combination is warranted.
Lifesciences wins IDMA award
Claris Lifesciences, an Ahmedabad-based global lifesciences company,
has received the IDMA (Indian Drug Manufacturers Association) Quality
Excellence 2008 Award in the category of formulation units for annual
turnover of more than Rs 100 crore.
This award makes Claris Lifesciences one of the few pharma companies to
have won the IDMA award for the third time. It earlier won the award in
2003 and 2004. IDMA Quality Excellence Awards were instituted
in 1984 for the purpose of appreciation and promotion of excellence and
product quality among IDMA members awarded on a turnover basis.
Commenting on this development Sushil Handa, founder, Claris
Lifesciences Ltd said, “This award recognizes our efforts to
regularly adhere to high quality benchmarks set by IDMA. This award is
for the people at Claris, who work diligently to deliver their
wins Chemtech Foundation's award
Bilcare Research wins Outstanding Innovation of the Year award by
ChemTech Foundation for its exceptional innovation, non-clonable
technology for identification, authentication and anti-counterfeiting.
Bilcare's award-winning innovation technology comprises of a
unique non-clonable signature that can be seamlessly integrated into
any supply chain system, providing a totally secure and reliable real
time identification and authentication of any product. This
system also provides a secure means for effective track-n-trace and
e-pedigree of the products across the supply chain, from manufacturer
to the consumer
The technology exploits the disruptive nature of nano/micro-particulate
materials together with their magnetic and optics effects to provide a
full-proof technology for accurate identification, authentication and
track and trace of a product.
Intas extend collaborative development
Apotex Inc. of Canada and Intas Biopharmaceuticals Ltd. (IBPL) have
extended their business agreement to develop a biosimilar version of
pegfilgrastim, a protein that is used to treat neutropenia (a side
effect of cancer chemotherapy). Neupeg, a recombinant pegylated
granulocyte colony stimulating factor is already manufactured and
marketed in India and other countries by IBPL. Both companies, IBPL and
Apotex are eying a significant share of total Peg GCSF market in North
America, which is currently estimated to be around $3.5 billion
annually. This collaboration gives Apotex the rights to market the
product in North America (US and Canada), Europe and selected other
countries. After announcing the launch of first GSCF generic for North
America in May 2008, the extension of collaboration between the two
companies makes IBPL the first Indian biopharmaceutical company to
announce the launch of Peg GCSF for North America and European markets.
symposium on Cancer Nanotechnology
The three days Indo–US symposium on Cancer Nanotechnology
(February 4-6, 2009) was held under the aegis of Indo-US Science and
Technology Forum (IUSSTF) and hosted by Jamia Hamdard at INSA
Auditorium, New Delhi. The purpose of this summit was to bring
scientists, technologists and industrialists from both the partners to
one platform in order to have intensive discussions about the cancer
related problems in their respective countries and to explore the
possibilities of collaborative research for fighting out the problems
related to cancer management.
Former president of India and visionary Dr A P J Abdul Kalam graced the
inaugural function of the symposium and congratulated the organizers
for bringing together eminent scientists from different laboratories in
the USA and India working for the common cause of fighting the
burgeoning problem of cancer.
In his presidential remarks Dr G N Qazi, vice chancellor, Jamia Hamdard
emphasized upon the biological perspective which should be addressed
while formulating any novel nanotechnology based formulation. He also
highlighted the ongoing research work at Jamia Hamdard. He particularly
stressed upon the need to follow the regulatory guidelines in
order to manufacture the nanoproducts as per cGMP.
The technical session on Cancer Nanotechnology: Enhancing imaging and
therapy was organized as part of the symposium.
inaugurates its cellulosic ethanol pilot plant
Praj Industries, the biofuels technology and solutions company, has
formally inaugurated its cellulosic ethanol pilot plant at Praj Matrix
– The Innovation Center, its R&D center
The Laboratory facility at Praj Matrix was put into operation in April
2008 with the objective of promoting basic research. The first phase of
the scaled up program has now been achieved with this break-through
wherein the pilot plant has successfully demonstrated production of
ethanol from corn cob and sugarcane bagasse under varying operating
conditions. This follows proven bench scale process development for
which Praj has already filed for patents.
As production of ethanol is expected to double by 2012, feedstock
expansion has become a top agenda, fostering intensive R&D
activities in this field. Most of the R&D has been promoted in
the USA and some in Europe, mainly assisted through government
grants. “We are proud to say that Praj Matrix
facilities can now be counted as the best-in-class advanced biofuels
research facilities across the globe. It is perhaps also the only one
of its kind on this side of the hemisphere. In fact, the break-through
puts us right on top of the league with advanced nations,”
said Pramod Chaudhari, chairman, Praj Industries.
Biotech signs MoU with Calcutta Tramways
Emami Biotech Ltd has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with
Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC), as part of which Emami will supply 250
Kiloliter of bio-diesel per month to CTC.
Buoyed by the certification from Singapore-based SGS Group for
acknowledging their bio-diesel sample as among the best in the world,
Emami Biotech has aggressive plans to promote this eco-friendly fuel.
The Emami Group is spearheading the process of developing Haldia in
West Bengal as India's bio-diesel hub through Emami Biotech.
Emami Biotech has come up with a state-of-the-art bio-diesel production
facility at Haldia, set up at a cost of Rs 150 crore. The bulk of the
production equipment has been supplied by Desmat Belstra, an Italian
Belgian joint venture company. An additional amount of Rs 100 crore has
been invested at the same facility for producing edible oil. The
production residue of edible oil will be used for preparing bio-diesel.
However, Agarwal stressed the fact that Emami Biotech is presently
selling bio-diesel at a lower price compared to normal diesel. He said
unless the government modifies its price mechanism on selling
bio-diesel, its production will become inviable.