Industry scouts for partners and innovation
The seventh edition of India's premier biotech show, Bangalore BIO 2007 was held in Bangalore during June 7-9, 2007. This year's event with the theme "Think Big Think Innovation", the event this year scaled up and has attracted over 600 delegates from across 15 countries. The three-day event attracted over 81 national and 33 international speakers, 625 conference delegates, 30,000 visitors (12,000 business and 15,000 student and general interest group), 152 exhibitors, and from over 12 countries, according to Vidyashankar, secretary, Department of IT and BT, Government of Karnataka.
Vidyashankar added, "The seventh edition of Bangalore BIO has indeed had a successful run. True to the theme of innovation and growth, the event created a platform to forge ahead on various issues of R&D, life sciences informatics, ethics in clinical trials to name a few and build partnerships. The venue of BIEC provided the ideal environment for B2B interaction, and the exhibition and conference being held at the same venue allowed the participants to be present at the both locations in a seamless manner. Bangalore Bio also had a focused Agri Biotech day. This year's discussion brought to the forefront critical agri-biotech issues such as food productivity for India."
Unveiling of the special supplement on Bangalore's biotech cluster brought out by BioSpectrum.
BioSpectrum published a special report on the UK Bioscience sector, which was released at the inaugural session of Bangalore BIO 2007.
Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram inaugurated the event on June 7, 2007. The government is aware that the sector is grappling with the issue of "early stage funding" and this has been addressed to a large extent by amending the tax law, giving concessions to the VCs to encourage them to make high risk business investments. He promised to help the industry if it still continues to face funding challenges. His statement came in response to the suggestion made to this effect by the chairperson of the Vision Group of Biotechnology (Karnataka), Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who said the biotech companies were facing funding problems in their early stages. He also took note of the concern expressed by the biotech entrepreneurs that venture capital was not flowing to biotech innovation projects.
"The industry is in the throes of a positive change," stated Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson of the Vision Group on Biotechnology and CMD, Biocon Ltd. She delineated the findings of the fifth annual BioSpectrum-ABLE Survey of the biotech industry in India. The growth is being led by the biopharma segment, which makes up for the $1.4 billion in the total turnover.
According to Dr Shaw, the challenge for India now lies in enabling companies to move from innovation to pre-clinical stage and getting VCs to back innovation, apart from developing specialized human resource. Dr Shaw proposed that an Indian Institute of Biotechnology modeled after the country's famed IITs be established. At the inaugural function, the Government of Karnataka in collaboration with the Deakin University of Australia announced an Indian Research Institute to help build high-end skill for the biotechnology sector.
Chidambaram stressed the need for utilizing biotechnology as an effective tool for providing a boost to agricultural development. He said the Union government was concerned over the slow growth rate of agricultural sector, though the country's overall economy was growing at a rapid pace.
Dr Shaw also made a case for Software Technology Parks of India (STPIs) model to be implemented in the biotech sector. She exhorted Chidambaram to look into the proposal.
The highlight of the Bangalore BIO 2007 show was the Australian delegation from the State of Victoria. The delegation on its first visit to India explored the partnership possibilities with Indian companies in various therapeutic areas.
Attending Bangalore BIO conference for the third time in succession, with a strong UK business delegation, Sir Michael Arthur, British High Commissioner in India, said, "We see big potential for the business and science partnership on biotechnology between India and Britain. For Indian biotech companies, the UK must be the No.1 destination in Europe. Over 50 percent of Europe's publicly listed bioscience companies are based in the UK. The UK provides an excellent business environment with low corporate taxes; flexible and skilled workforce; the strongest capital market in Europe. Britain has a strong business research culture-1 spin off business for every $27,000,000 of research funding, compared to 1 for $80,000,000 in America."
Australia, India partners-in-biotech
At the India's premier biotech show Bangalore BIO 2007, two "cricket-crazy" nations came together to partner in the arena of life sciences. Prof. David de Krester, Governor of the State of Victoria led the Australian delegation, on its first exploratory visit to Bangalore, the biotech hub of India.
Dr KK Narayanan, president, ABLE; Dr SA Patil, director, IARI; Bandeppa Kashempur, minister for agriculture, Karnataka, at the inaugural session of the Agribiotech Day.
Speaking at the inaugural, Prof. Krester elaborated on the opportunities that both countries can collaborate on. "There are opportunities in agriculture, biotech, healthcare and stem cell research," he said adding that a revolution in the biotech industry is in the making and this is the time to partner and forge ahead. The high-powered delegation from Australia also had AusBiotech CEO, Anna Lavelle and Dr Amanda Caples, spearheading the cause of biotech industry, in the capacity of Director-Biotechnology for the State of Victoria.
In Australia, the State of Victoria is a leader in the biotech industry, with 140 of the country's biotech companies headquartered there. In fact, out of the total research grant given by the federal government in Australia 43 percent goes to Victoria. The State is also home to Australia's top two universities.
Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon; Anna Lavelle, CEO, Aus Biotech, Dr Nezih Cereb, MD, Histogenetics, and Dr Bala S Manian, founding CEO, ReaMetrix, sharing their insights at the CEO Conclave.
One of the highlights of the Bangalore BIO 2007 was the effort to address two critical issues staring the industry in the face - early stage venture funding and the right kind of talent pool. As a step ahead, Biocon and Deakin University from the State of Victoria, signed an MoU for joint multi-disciplinary research focused on biotechnology and biosciences. Under the MoU, Deakin Research Institute will be established in Bangalore. Deakin University and Biocon will also work together for the development of $50 million the mammalian cell bio-processing facility at Geelong in Victoria. Deakin will also undertake research on metabolic diseases at its facility, on behalf of Biocon.
Alexandria to build Bangalore Biotech Park
Alexandria Real Estate Equities, based in Pasadena, California, will build the second and third phases of Bangalore's upcoming Biotech Park at a cost of approximately $140 million to cover 7,50,000 sft of lab space for life science and biotech companies.
The long-delayed phase 1 of the Bangalore Helix, in the state of Karnataka being built by India-based National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) with technical support from Singapore's JTC Corp, is likely to be completed in July 2007.
Karnataka's IT and BT secretary, MN Vidyashankar said Alexandria was chosen from a list of 32 global bidders who offered take up the expansion work of Bangalore Helix. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Karnataka government and Alexandria was signed on the inaugural day of the Bangalore Bio 2007.
Alexandria is one of North America's leading builder and operator to life science park and this NYSE-listed company manages nearly 150 such parks covering 11 million sft of built up facilities such as the Technology Square at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Alexandria ventured out of the US for the first time in May 2007 when it was chosen to develop the re-branded Edinburgh BioQuarter, in Scotland.
Bangalore Helix will be the second project being taken by Alexandria. The company is now developing nearly 6 million sft of life science parks including Mission Bay in San Francisco, and East River Science Park in New York.
Vidyashankar and Karnataka's Biotech Vision Group Chairperson, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said the expansion of the Bangalore Helix will be based on public-private partnership model.
When completed in 2009, Bangalore Helix will have an array facilities required by biotech companies, including wet labs, green house, animal house, incubators and other specialty infrastructure.
The first phase of Bangalore Helix is likely to be opened in early July 2007 and two Bangalore-based institutions, the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biology (IBAB) and Center for Human Genetics will move into it. The facility for these two institutions has been built at a cost of nearly $ 2.4 million.
Several country partnership initiatives took place between Indian companies and research institutes through a series of meetings with delegations from the UK, France, Holland, Germany, US and Australia. The event saw active participation from 12 countries.
Bangalore-based Avesthagen announced the signing of a pact with the Government of Andhra Pradesh, India for an additional 50 acres of land in the State's Biotech Park. The company is planning to set-up two manufacturing units in Hyderabad - Avestha Biotherapeutics & Research, which will manufacture biosimilar products and Avestha Good Earth, which will manufacture bionutraceuticals.
Agri-Biotech Day at Bangalore BIO 2007
A day was dedicated to exclusively focus on agribiotech during Bangalore Bio. Bandeppa Kashempur, minister for agriculture, Government of Karnataka, who was chief guest, said, "We are taking ample measures to propose changes in the agricultural policy. We have a vision of achieving 4.5 percent growth with the available land in spite of increasing land conversion for industrial and residential purposes." He noted that Karnataka has scientific resources to boost the agricultural sector. Underlining the need to increase productivity, he invited entrepreneurs and scientists to join the taskforce.
Highlights of Bangalore BIO 2007
Elaborating on the need for private-public partnerships to boost agri-biotechnology sector, Dr SA Patil, director, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, stated, "Partnership mode of private and public sectors will give miraculous results. The need of the hour is to set up a fund by Karnataka to promote agribiotech.
Highlighting the challenges of the agriculture industry, Dr KK Narayanan, president, ABLE and managing director, Metahelix Life Sciences, stated, "India has a large extent of agricultural land (100 million hector) which is second only to the US. Though India is the largest producer of rice with 44 million hectares of land, productivity levels are low."
He pointed out the IT services sector showed a growth rate of 13 percent, manufacturing 12 percent, while the agriculture grew only by 2 percent. Though 2/3rd of the population is engaged in farming, only one-fourth contribute to the GDP, which amounts to less than one-fifth of the total GDP. He appealed for a sustainable model for growth in this sector.
Ch. Srinivas Rao