As countries roll out the red carpet to attract biotech companies, India’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) says it will “handhold” start-ups and larger companies looking to set up in the country.
India will provide a “soft landing” for companies looking to establish their research and bio-manufacturing facilities here, said Jitendra Kumar, BIRAC Managing Director. There are 75 incubation centres (bio-nests) across the country, and BIRAC can handhold companies and place them in the appropriate centre, a move that “can change the innovation landscape in the country”, Kumar told businessline.
Large bio-pharma companies will be incentivised, by providing an enabling ecosystem to establish facilities here, including encouraging set-ups where they work with smaller ventures, he said, of collaborations that would be mutually beneficial and help bring in global best practices.
While the focus would be on medicine, there is a “big canvas” available including medical devices, agriculture and environmental sciences, he said, and this would be showcased at the Global Bio-India 2023 conclave, organised by India’s Department of Biotechnology and its public sector unit — BIRAC, starting Monday.
‘On the bus’
Responding to whether countries like Singapore have a head-start on creating bio-enclaves to attract bio-ventures, Kumar said, “I won’t say we are late because of the sheer size of market and availability of manpower...,” When it comes to bio-manufacturing, he added, “We have not missed the bus, we are on it and we will create a huge impact,” he said, referring to the Centre’s support and funding to bio-ventures, especially since several new-age medical therapies are in the biologicals segment.
The support to these ventures will be in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the effort would be to develop innovative technologies that provide alternative resources, he said, pointing to emerging trends including lab-grown meat and milk, and alternative organisms that support production without testing on animals.
India is producing medicines and vaccines for the world, now it aims to become the bio-manufacturing hub, Kumar said. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines biomanufacturing as “the use of biological systems that have been engineered, or that are used outside their natural context, to produce a product. “Outlining two capabilities here, CDC said, “The first ... is the creation of new genomes, biological pathways, or organisms not found in nature. The second... is the redesign of existing genes, cells, or organisms. These capabilities allow for the manufacture of novel products, and also new approaches to existing disciplines (such as gene therapy in healthcare).”
During Covid-19, BIRAC played a key role in the development of the mRNA, DNA and nasal vaccines. Responding to quality concerns that come up involving pharma products, Kumar said, BIRAC would ensure quality and regulatory compliance. Given their funding and incentivising role, he said, companies selected for support, should be compliant. BIRAC is not a regulator, but would inspect companies to convey its importance, so companies realise non-compliance could see funds being curtailed, besides getting blacklisted by BIRAC, Kumar said.