The life sciences industry in India has changed for good with the
establishment of academic institutes, research centers and expansion of
medical and healthcare industry, however, these have remained
restricted within their specific boundaries. There have been few
examples in India where one could study, research, ideate and
productize and monetize those ideas.
Now, Bangalore, Faridabad and Mohali are all set to host
biotech science clusters where such ideas can come to fruition. Among
these clusters, a unique Health Biotech Science Cluster (HBSC) is being
developed by the Department of Biotechnology. The HBSC, coming up on a
200 acre stretch, is intended to foster innovative conceptual research
in a wide range of biotech-related sciences, with an initial focus on
health biotechnology. The cluster will house the UNESCO Regional Center
for Biotechnology (URCB) and the Translational Health Science
Technology Institute (THSTI) as founding institutes. Initially, these
are expected to function from Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon. The first phase of
work will start on the 40-acre land at Faridabad and the permanent
laboratories are expected to come up over the next three years.
A number of other related centers that will have its presence at the
cluster are at conceptual stage and the work for these institutes will
start in the second phase. These include Center for Vaccinology,
Molecular Medicine Center, Center for Diagnostics, Biotech Park, Center
for Health Science Technology, Center for Platform Technologies,
Incubator, Center for Animal Model for Clinical Advances, and National
center for Biodesign. There will also be a common library for
institutes that is expected to serve as a platform for discussions and
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) cell at the National Institute of
Immunology (NII), will oversee the whole project being transformed from
concept to finish. On being asked about the difference between the
institutes in cluster and the already existing institutes, Dr Shrikumar
Suryanarayan, director general of ABLE and CEO, Biotech Cluster,
Faridabad, says, “Universities have ideas but they get lost.
The need is to share those ideas at the right time with right people.
Currently, the academic institutes in India are not designed to support
what is required for innovation and there is lack of such
multi-disciplinary institutes in India. Therefore, this initiative will
serve as a major boost towards such approach.”
“Innovation is a buzz word and there is a difference between
innovation and discovery. Innovation should make difference to society
and translation is the only key to it. Radio waves are considered as
discovery but the innovation came in the form of cell phone. Similarly
the establishment of this cluster will promote innovation for human
health,” observes Dr Shrikumar.
The HBSC will include three constituencies -students,
industry and patients. With the THSTI and the URCB as founding
institutions, there will be domain-specific working groups that will
interact in translational research and development programs. The
coordinating cluster board will mediate the incorporation of the future
institutions such as Clinical Health Center (CHC). The cluster will
synergize high-value resources and infrastructure, coordinated
development and maximize societal benefits. There will be common
policies for all the institutes while keeping their autonomous nature
Purpose of HBSC
- To establish a single
entryway to India's translational health science research
- To foster innovative
research within India.
- To advance India's
research collaboration internationally.
- To secure positive outcomes
in healthcare and commercial applications.
Dr S Natesh, senior advisor, DBT, New Delhi, while speaking to
BioSpectrum stressed upon the fact that this being the high-time to
create these kinds of clusters where there will be numerous institutes,
discussing ideas and partnering for translating them into substantial
“The curriculum for the institutes will be the programs
relevant to IPR, bioenergy, bio-entrepreneurship, regulatory affairs,
health and nanosciences,” adds Dr Natesh.
Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) is an
autonomous institution, which will be a part of the interdisciplinary
HBSC, being mentored by globally-recognized National Institute of
Immunology (NII) and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and
Technology (HM-HST). The THSTI will be a dynamic and interactive
organization with a mission to conduct innovative translational
research and develop research collaborations across various disciplines
and professions to accelerate the development of concepts into tangible
products to improve human health.
The cluster institutions will have access to the state-of-the-art
experimental animal facility and the platform technology center for the
Dr Martha Gray, director of Health Sciences and Technology,
MIT-Harvard, US, while talking about the importance of the partnership
between the US and India, says, “The partnership will lead to
the opening of a chain of collaborations in translational
Vaccine and Infectious Disease Research Center (VIDRC) is an
independent research center of the THSTI with a mission to study
infectious diseases and pathogens with the aim to generate
translational knowledge for developing prophylactic and therapeutic
measures against diseases prevalent in India.
The center will be involved in research in relevant areas of
immunology, virology, microbiology, structural, chemical and systems
biology with interest in furthering the center's mission.
Research areas involving the host-pathogen interactions, covering the
entire range of expertise and interest from the statistical and
epidemiological to the cellular and molecular levels will also be
center for biotech
Another major highlight of the cluster is a UNESCO-sponsored Regional
Center for Biotechnology (URCB). It is an outcome of a joint decision
by the Government of India and UNESCO to promote the training and
research for generating interdisciplinary human resource relevant to
The center is expected to benefit all countries in the region including
India in developing knowledge-rich highly-skilled human resource,
harmonization of policies and procedures in biotechnology and
indirectly promoting trade.
The primary focus of URCB will be to provide world-class research,
training and education in biotech sciences at the interface of multiple
disciplines. It will be a meeting place where innovation, enterprise,
and industrial development will germinate. The educational programs of
URCB will be designed to create innovative opportunities to engage in
research and learn to integrate science, engineering and medicine to
provide major breakthroughs of relevance to India.
Dr Dinakar Salunkhe, who is currently overseeing the works of URCB,
says, “The purpose of URCB will be to focus on human
resource, fundamental education and to develop necessary ideas and
encourage the growth of industry in the region. It will also function
as a platform for integration of the disciplines.”
The educational programs of the center are designed to create
opportunities for students to engage in research where they learn the
tools by integrating science, engineering and medicine to provide
healthcare solutions and also for developing agriculture and
The URCB is expected to provide a platform for interdisciplinary
research, education and training in order to create human resources
required for the biotech interface of engineering, chemistry, physics
and medicine, and to empower human resources critical for a wide range
of biotech needs and to seek knowledge-based innovation and
context-specific biotechnology solutions.
The design and processes of the education at this center will generate
technology-savvy solution finders/creators; science entrepreneurs/
knowledge-economy entrepreneurs and R&D leaders.
“An important focus of expertise building will be
regulation, product development, scale up, manufacturing science and
bio-entrepreneurship thus helping in preparation of next generation
students,” says Dr Salunkhe.
- Create and nurture high
quality interdisciplinary human resource.
- Provide globally-oriented
education and training.
- Offer training for
physicians intending to enter biology and short-term exposure to
biologists and engineers through hospitals and medical schools.
- Focus on industry-oriented
- Regulatory affairs
- Biomedical enterprise/
business development in biotechnology
- Biomedical quality systems
and product development
- Biomedical translational
- Technology transfer and
- Systems biology
The uniqueness of this project will be the designing of domain specific
programs by the faculty of URCB and THSTI in new opportunity areas of
discovery science and technological innovations such as drug discovery
and systems biology, cell and tissue engineering, nanoscience and
technology, synergy of information technology, and advanced
biomaterials, in order to create highly-specialized people who delve
across various disciplines. Investigators will be provided shared
laboratory space and adequate start-up resources. They are expected to
generate eventual extramural project-based funding.
The physical proximity of the institutes and the multi-disciplinary
approach towards the education are definitely going to have its
long-term beneficial implications. Given the enthusiastic response of
large number of students, who have blogged to know about the cluster in
itself speaks about the importance to transform this unique concept
into a reality at a higher speed.
With our western counterparts already following this kind of concept,
we surely need to increase our pace so that we don't miss
this innovation driven bus.
“The curriculum for the institutes at HBSC will be the
programs relevant to IPR, bioenergy, bio-entrepreneurship, regulatory
affairs, health and nanosciences”
-Dr S Natesh, senior advisor, Department of Biotechnology,
“An important focus of expertise building will be regulation,
product development, scale up, and developing science and
bio-entrepreneurships to prepare next generation students”
-Dr Dinakar M Salunke, senior scientist, National Institute
of Immunology, New Delhi
“There is a lack of multi-disciplinary institutes in India.
Therefore, this initiative will serve as a major boost towards such
-Dr Shrikumar Suryanarayan,
director general of ABLE and CEO, Biotech Cluster, Haryana
Koul in New Delhi