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Biotechnology in India. The prospects

India has the potential to become a biotechnology giant provided it ensures sufficient patent protection and availability of quality manpower to the industry.

By PPFI Team
December 08, 2008

Biotechnology is perceived by many as a boon to the mankind. Scientists around the world have not only developed cures for the diseases that have affected the mankind for ages but have also developed several robust crop varieties that can withstand the vagaries  of weather and help poor farmers increase their crop production. At present, India has only a small share of the world biotech market. However it has all the potential to become a dominant player in the sector.

What makes the country one of the most attractive destinations for the biotechnology industry across the world is the immense bio-diversity of the Indian sub-continent. India has about 7.6% of total mammal species, 12.6% of bird species, 11.7% of fishes and roughly 6.0% of total flowering plants that are present in the world. It reflects the high biodiversity in India considering that Indian sub-continent occupies just about 2.8 per cent of the total global surface area. India also has varied climatic conditions which can help the biotech companies grow a variety of biotech products. With its large population of over a billion people, India is also a huge market for biotech products and services. According to some industry estimates, the consumption of biotech products in India is expected to grow four-fold in the next decade.

A segment-wise review of the biotech industry also provides a promising picture. The Indian pharmaceutical market is growing very rapidly and according to some experts, it may become a US $ 25 million industry by 2010. On the agro-biotech front, there is a tremendous scope for growth as India is the among the largest food producer countries in the world. Due to its long coastline of about 8000 kilometres, the marine resource development too holds a great potential for it. Another promising area for India is contract research and bioinformatics because of its rich bio-diversity and availability of skilled and low cost man power.

Realising its potential, state governments in India have taken various initiatives to promote the biotechnology industry. Government of Andhra Pradesh has set up a Knowledge Park near Hyderabad. Similarly, Tamil Nadu government is facilitating the setting up of the biotechnology enterprise zones (biovalleys) to exploit the bio resources of the state. Karnataka is setting up an institute for bioinformatics in Bangalore and has announced a biotech policy to promote this sector. The state of Himachal Pradesh has announced 100% tax holidays for all biotechnology products up to the year 2012.

However if India has to emerge as a biotechnology giant, it must sort out some of the issues that are critical to the growth of the biotech sector. One issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of sufficient patent protection in India. It has emerged as the major deterrent in the growth of the Indian biotechnology industry. Another bottleneck is that there are few educational institutions that impart quality specialised education in the field of bio-technology. Apart from these, there is a distinct lack of innovation in the biotech industry. The government of India should ensure speedy action in all these areas to ensure that India emerges as a frontrunner in the biotechnology sector.