• 13 February 2012
  • News
  • By Nandita Singh

Expand the biotech market

Nandita Singh
The author is
Editor of BioSpectrum
Global biotech market is forecasted to be over $300 billion by 2015. The question is: how much of this will be served by the India industry in 2015? The answer is: most likely, just about three percent.

At an average per year growth of 20 percent, from $4 billion in 2011, India biotech industry will barely be in the striking distance of $10 billion – constituting just a little over three percent of the overall global industry. The India share in biotech industry doesn't quite sound like the hype around the “promise of biotech”. The industry in India, just like elsewhere has a high entry barrier, and is heavily regulated for its own good. Being capital and know-how intensive, surviving and thriving in the biotech industry is a challenge for even companies that have been at it for over 10-15 years. Even though the government support to the industry in terms of creating the ecosystem has been admirable, the much talked about pace of growth is not in sight yet.

So, the question now is: What can the industry do to expand its market in India and globally? The answer lies is broadening the biotech applications horizon. The might of the biotech-led solutions extend beyond drug discovery and human health. It is fairly easy to point out that a host of biotech application opportunities exist in – heat and drought resistant agriculture, industrial applications, low-carbon energy, clean water and the likes.

In fact, if I were to say industrial applications segment is a contender for the largest share in the biotech market and it need not be limited to enzymes, I most likely wouldn't be wrong. Another big contender is agricultural applications – more so, if there are positive developments with respect to approvals for genetically modified crop trials.

Having said that, I must add that biomedicine is a worthy, profitable segment to be in. However, it is impossible for the Indian companies to go at it, by themselves. Besides, the industry itself will remain in a flux with pharma companies adding biotech competencies to their business portfolios – big and small acquisitions will continue to abound. In this background, contract organizations, while providing drug discovery and manufacturing services to their principals, are building capacity in the country that will ultimately contribute to the scale that is right now only a vision. So, the critical mass that helps propel a change of orbit will come in biomedicine, but it is likely be 2020, not 2015.

Meanwhile, what is required is promotion of biotech applications to other sectors and encourage their adoption. Unless, this is taken up at the industry wide, national level by the government, industry associations and the members of the biotech industry itself, the industry growth will not pick up pace. So, if your company or institute has biotechnology that can find applications in industries other than human health, drop me a mail on it. It's time. We need to get together and do something about it.

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