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Biotech league racing towards $1-b mark

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Ms Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, President, Association of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises (ABLE), Chairperson & MD, Biocon; flanked by Mr N. Suresh (right), Editor, BioSpectrum; and Mr S. Anand Kumar, Honorary Director, ABLE, and Director, AstraZeneca Research Foundation India, at the second Survey of BioSpectrum-ABLE in Bangalore on Wednesday. - Sampath Kumar G.P.

Bangalore , Aug. 11

THE bio picture seems to be getting bigger and better. The domestic biotechnology industry, seen as the next big thing after information technology, is set to cross the magic figure of $1 billion in revenue this year, as per a latest survey.

A healthy 39 per cent growth in revenues during 2003-04 has put the industry at Rs 3,265 crore, says the second joint annual survey conducted by the magazine BioSpectrum and the industry body ABLE (Association of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises).

Announcing the survey results, Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, President, ABLE, and CMD, Biocon Ltd, said at a news conference here, "If the momentum continues, the industry will reach its goal of $5 billion in 2010."

Despite several hurdles in its path, the industry is gathering momentum and looking for some positive developments this year. Regulatory and funding issues are going to be tackled with the two task forces headed by Dr M.S. Swaminathan for agriculture and Dr R.A. Mashelkar for pharmaceuticals. The sector could expect investments worth Rs 850 crore next year, up from Rs 635 crore.

The number of companies in the sector has grown to 235. The first survey conducted last year had put the industry at 135 companies with total revenues of Rs 2,345 crore.

Ms Mazumdar-Shaw said the sector was on a healthy course and the growth factors during the year were the go-ahead for Bt cotton in bio-agriculture, increasing orders for clinical trials and an expanding activity in services like supplies.

The focus on biotechnology today, according to her, is much stronger than ever before. The industry had healthy interactions with the Government, which through the Department of Biotechnology, is examining a supportive policy, regulatory issues and also models for financing biotech start-ups.

Emerging talent: Internationally too, Indian capabilities have been noticed; with 9,100 professionals forming arguably the world's largest talent pool, Indian biotech industry ranks third in Asia, while facing some competition from China. The headcount could go to 11,000 this year.

Recombinant vaccines, she said, had a huge potential in the regulated markets and Indian generic biodrugs could expect to see some welcome regulatory measures in the US and Europe.

The survey has identified top two leading groups: the Pune-based vaccines major, the Serum Institute of India and Biocon, which have each crossed Rs 500 crore in revenue and accounts for a third of the industry size.

The Rs 555-crore Serum is the largest biotech group and Biocon follows close behind at Rs 549 crore. In the sale of biotech products, Biocon, with revenue of Rs 502 crore, is ahead of Serum in the top 20 league.

The others are Panacea Biotec with Rs 149-crore sales of biotech products; Nicholas Piramal with Rs 130 crore; and Novo Nordisk at No. 5 with sales of Rs 110 crore.

The BioSpectrum Chief Editor, Mr E. Abraham Mathew, said biopharma products under four broad categories were considered, including vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and others like statins.

Sectors such as bioinformatics, bioindustrial or enzymes; and bioservices including clinical trials, custom research and manufacturing were also considered. The total biotech exports took 55.65 per cent share of the pie, led by biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and statins.

Bioservices made sales of Rs 275 crore and showed over 100 per cent growth. Key players were companies such as Quintiles, Syngene and SIRO Clinpharm, which they said, were doing extremely well.

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