Global Opportunities In Biotechnology For Indian Business Leaders

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There are many definitions of biotechnology. It has been described as including any technique that uses living organisms to make or modify products, to improve plants or animals or to develop microorganisms for specific uses. It has also been defined as the industrial exploitation of biological systems or processes. In its broadest sense, biotechnology refers to the use of living systems to develop products. New scientific discoveries are allowing us to better understand fundamental life processes at the cellular and molecular level. Now we can improve selected attributes of microbes, plants, or animals for human use by making precise genetic changes that were not possible with traditional methods.

Given the opportunities that exist in this sector, the presence of trained manpower, strong knowledge base and rich bio-diversity in India, there is little wonder that more and more Indian companies are seriously eyeing this sector. Technology innovation in the life sciences sector is rapid and constant. Thus for biotech companies to survive their current business models, they must pursue profits through products and services, which reflect this rapid rate of change.

Biotechnology has a vast application area, some prominent ones are

Microbes: improve the functionality of key food ingredients, such as enzymes

Plants: enhance to ability of plants to fight disease and pests, remove allergens from food

Animals: enhance the ability of livestock & pets to overcome disease and maintain health

Humans: anticipate & intervene earlier in a disease through new medicines

The Human Genome Project signals a paradigm shift for the global pharmaceutical industry in its search for critical drug discoveries. To take advantage of the opportunities afforded by genomics, several well established Indian pharmaceutical companies such as Nicholas Piramal India Ltd, Ranbaxy Laboratories and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories have decided to enter this fast growing sector.

Bioinformatics is another interdisciplinary research area, which may be defined as the interface between biological and computational sciences. Thus, the people working in this field in most cases either have training in biology or computer science, and they learned about the other field by dealing with problems or using the tools of the other one. This sector is facing a shortage of manpower not only because it is difficult to get people with the right expertise but also because the nature, ethics and methodology of these fields of study distinctly vary.

The main hurdle in this industry is it is highly capital intensive. It is estimated that in US alone, 950 biotechnology firms are in existence as of date and their R&D budget varies from 1000 US$ to 700 million US$.

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