BT industry cries for funds, govt backing

By : |July 11, 2004 0

BANGALORE: Stressing the need for mature funding in the industry, Biocon chief and chairperson of the Vision Group of Biotechnology Kiran Majumdar Shaw rued that biotechnology does not enjoy any incentives compared to the IT industry. Out of the 70 VC funds, only 10 have invested in the biotech sector. Moreover, most VCs are focused on late stage funding,” she added.

She was speaking at the showcase event for the biotech industry, BangaloreBio2004, where industry players and stakeholders dwelled on issues facing the industry. Shaw was disappointed that the 2004 budget did nothing to remove the customs duty on research equipment. R&D is very expensive. One cannot expect young BT companies to come up when the equipment costs are high,” she said.

She emphasized the need for an increased Government support for the nascent industry and called for measures such as a national biotech policy and a seed-fund for start-ups.

On the positive side, the industry has a few things to cheer about. Two task forces that have been set up- the Mashelkar committee for pharma biotech and the Swaminathan Committee for agri-biotech are working to clear some of the regulatory bottlenecks.

Shaw was also enthused by the response showed by the new Union Minister for Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal. We have placed a few items that need to be addressed such as regulatory issues, IPRs, seed fund, BT Park and regulatory reforms for clinical trials. We hope something positive will turn up,” she informed.

Speaking at the inauguration of the BangaloreBio 2004 conference series, Government of India Department of Biotechnology Secretary, Dr MK Bhan said, two issues of concern are regulatory issues and IPRs. The industry can expect action on this front in two years.”

He added that the Ministry had assured the industry an allocation of Rs 100 crore in next year’s budget. Dr Bhan delineated a series of measures required to encourage and sustain the biotech industry’s growth including:

  • Need for scaling up and using professional help to communicate biotechnology to the common man and policy makers. This is critical to get investment into the sector

  • Broaden the research paradigm. As of now, basic science is an end onto itself. The missing links in the research chain pure sciences needs to be combined with BT

  • Build innovation centers within existing institutions. One such initiative has been started at the Delhi University

  • Need to change universities and educational institutions from following a forced paradigm to one of individualism that is characteristic of the West

  • Resolve the conflict of interest within institutions where the rights of individuals often do not match the institution’s goals

  • The industry should not diffuse and spread. Investment towards R&D and educational institutions needs to be concentrated in particular areas

  • Encourage public-private partnerships. Although, they are happening, it is very miniscule. A government-endorsed policy is needed on this

  • A totally different approach in terms of education, way of working and investment.

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