Sometimes hype can harm
an industry. India's fledgling biotechnology industry is at the
receiving end of some unnecessary hype being built around it. The
strange thing is that the hype about biotech is not created by the
industry itself but by those outside it.
The latest hype about biotech has come from a national newspaper DNA.
In a recent edition, the newspaper has started an India Positive
campaign. The second sentence in the screaming copy on the front page,
while listing various positive things in the country, is... “India's
biotechnology industry has annual revenues in excess of $5 billion and
is second only to the US industry.” Biotech industry leaders will be
very happy if the reality is this. But it is not. The most authentic
survey of the Indian biotech industry is done by BioSpectrum and ABLE.
The $5 billion revenue figure is at least two more years away. Unless
of course one counts the entire biotech ecosystem and its revenue
contribution, this figure is way off the mark. There are certainly
other biotech markets in the world that are bigger than India, such as
Australia, Japan, China, UK and Germany.
The industry does not need this unwanted attention at this stage.
Because, the hype will focus attention away from the urgent steps
required to put the industry on an even keel and help it realize its
strengths in the long run.
So are things beginning to happen in the biotech sector? The answer is
certainly yes, but not on the imagined high scales. It has become clear
over the years that budding entrepreneurs in biotech have to earn their
spurs with their fund raising abilities and not depend on venture
capitalists who continue to shun risky investments. However, various
schemes such as SBIRI of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have
filled the gap admirably, in a very short time.
In the recent issues, BioSpectrum has showcased some of the excellent
examples of biotech developments spurred by public-private partnership
(PPP) models. The series continues in this issue with three more
interesting profiles of companies forging ahead with SBIRI funds.
Hyderabad-based ExCel Matrix is a tissue engineering company focused on
commercializing some of the regenerative medicine techniques developed
by the publicly funded National Institute of Immunology(NII). Imgenex
India, based in Orissa is using the tools of nanotechnology to ensure
targeted delivery of drugs to treat osteoporosis. And Delhi-based ARA
Healthcare has used public funds effectively to develop three
therapeutic proteins to fighter cancer cells. The country needs many
more such initiatives. If many of these partnership efforts succeed, it
will indeed bring the buzz back to biotech.
Meanwhile, the genetically modified (GM) products under development
continue to generate considerable attention in different parts of the
country. After cotton and brinjal, it is the GM rubber that is
generating heat even before the onset of summer.
It is time for well meaning scientists and even policy makers to come
out in the open and create public awareness about the benefits of GM
With this edition, BioSpectrum completes eight years of showcasing the
business of Indian biotech. Log on to
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