What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology refers to the industrial use of micro-organism, living plant and animal cells to produce substances useful to the people. It includes the manufacture of antibiotics, vitamins, vaccines, toxic waste disposal systems using microbes etc.
Biotechnology sector in India
- Indian biotechnology sector has crossed the $ 3 billion milestones and is growing at the rate of more than 30% over the last few years.
- There is also a general perspective that India could even achieve the target of attaining $20 billion by 2020.
Applications of Biotechnology in India
- Biotechnology revolutionized research activities in agriculture which include tissue culture in plants, the creation of new transgenic plants and animals which eventually used as bio-reactors to produce the drug from their milk, food etc.
- Genetic engineering accelerates improvements in plants by increasing the diversity of the gene pool. It has also helped in the production of plants that have
- a short maturing period
- higher yield
- potential to promote food production even in adverse conditions like drought, salinity etc.
Indian scientists have also come up with an inexpensive algal bio-fertilizer technology for rice.
- Biotechnology is used in the production of the physiological system, embryos transfer, health and well-being of animals.
- Indian scientists have developed a procedure for producing several identical buffalo by using the nuclear transfer technique.
- Biotechnology has enabled the production of human insulin through microbes, human growth hormone etc.
- Diagnostic kits to diagnose viral infections, hepatitis B etc.
- In the Industrial sector biotechnology has been used for the production of high fructose corn syrup, sweetening agent for soft drinks, improving the production of alcohol, production of the chemical from agricultural waste etc.
- Biotechnology applications have been successfully made in the treatment of wastes.
- An important achievement was made when the Indian borne Anand Chakraborty designed a bacterium Pseudomonas putida that could feed on oil which is of great economic and environmental importance in the battle against oil slicks.
- The Indian government has been very supportive to the Biotech sector and the National Biotechnology Development Strategy has been approved.
- A new patent regime is in place and the regulatory system is being beefed up.
- The public involvement in biotech investments has been strengthened through the small business innovation research initiative of the Department of Biotechnology.
- The Department of Biotechnology has also committed to spending 30% of its budget on public-private partnership programmes in Biotechnology.
- Biotechnology has also been promoted through emphasizing on higher education, establishing 16 new national level universities, 8 new Indian Institute of Technology and 4 new Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research etc.
- Several new interface programmes to connect academic with industry in order to bridge the knowledge to the market chain.
- Companies have not been able to launch new products at a significant pace because of bureaucratic red-tape and multiple regulatory bodies.
- Innovative companies face funding constraints since the investors have shied away from early-stage ventures.
- Another issue is the lack of trained manpower. While India has a considerable number of graduates and postgraduates in biotechnology and related fields, they are not employable. Thus companies have to invest heavily in their training before incorporating them into the business.
- India also suffers from brain drain. Top global biotech companies are able to poach the brightest Indian minds with attractive job profiles and good remuneration.
- Lack of manufacturing capacity. Several biotech parks (established through PPPs) are solely focused on providing biotech services and diagnostics rather than pure biotech manufacturing.
- India is already facing tough competition from China, Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia in terms of attracting investments. Therefore, it is high time that India should enable better technological and scientific competence, better infrastructure, tax and duty exemptions, better course structure, and easier regulatory procedures in order to remain competitive and spur growth in the industry.
- The biotech industry should come up with a concrete action plan to effectively utilize the available infrastructure and resources and focus on strengthening innovation to take the biotech industry to new heights.
- The government must promote the domestic biotech industry through steps like venture capital, industry-academia link, entrepreneurship incubation centres etc.
- Discuss the various applications of Biotechnology in India and analyse its growth potential with reference to initiatives taken by the government regarding the same