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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The biotech industry in India accounts for juzz 2% of global biotech markets. But it is gaining global visibility recently mainly coz of the investment opportunities.

Biotechnology is a powerful enabling technology that can transform agriculture and healthcare, use renewable resources to bring greater efficiency into industrial processes, check environmental degradation and deliver a more bio-based economy.

Why Biotechnology in India is important?

  • Trained manpower and knowledge base
  • Good network of research laboratories
  • Rich Biodiversity
  • Well developed base industries (e.g.: pharmaceuticals, seeds)
  • Access to intellectual resources of NRIs in this area.
  • Extensive clinical trials and research - access to vast & diverse disease populations
  • Bio-diversity - India's human gene pools offer an exciting opportunity for genomic studies.
  • Agriculture being the mainstay of the masses translates into a corresponding growth of the Agribiotech sector.

Key markets in Indian Biotech Industry

  • Industrial biotech (e.g. enzymes)
  • Vaccines (e.g. recombinant Hepatitis B)
  • Diagnostics (e.g. immunology kits)
  • Veterinary products (e.g. animal health products)
  • Agri-biotech products (e.g. genetically modified seeds).

The industry consists mainly of pure biotechnology startups and established pharmaceutical and agri-business companies. Biocon India, Shantha Biotechnics, Bharat Biotech, Wockhardt, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Serum Institute of India Ltd, Zydus Cadila, Aventis Pharma and Reliance Life Sciences are the major players in this industry.

Biotech Industry is poised to become $16 billion sector in 2015.

When it rains, it pours!
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Here's a collection of articles.. little old though!!

Biotech sector turnover tops Rs 12,000 cr in 2009

Growth rate slips due to meltdown, foreign exchange rate.


Bangalore, June 18 The global meltdown and the foreign exchange rate have impacted Indian biotechnology.

The industry growth rate slipped to 18 per cent in 2008-09, compared with 30-34 per cent in the previous years.

The sector’s overall turnover in 2008-09 was Rs 12,137 crore, said Ms Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CMD of Biocon, and head of the Karnataka think-tank, the Vision Group on Biotechnology, citing the annual Biospectrum survey of industry. The revenue was Rs 10,273 crore in 2007-08.

With 60 per cent of the income coming from exports, the turnover in dollar terms was static year-on-year at $2.5 billion. The exchange rate last year was Rs 47/dollar compared with Rs 40 in 2007-08.

The Bangalore cluster, with 187 or nearly half of the 370 biotech industries, topped among clusters, with a turnover of Rs 2,500 crore. The Mumbai-Pune cluster, she said, was catching up with the highest growth rate among all clusters.

She said, “India’s promise is to focus on synergies and progress by partnering in knowledge. India can play a key role in addressing the global challenges of food and health insecurities. To achieve this goal, we need to innovate the very process of biotech innovation.”

Bio-pharma contributed Rs 7,883 crore; bio-agri nearly Rs 1,500 crore, bio-industrial segment Rs 478 crore and bio-informatics grew 15 per cent to touch Rs 220 crore.
German, UK-based biotech cos eye India for outsourcing
22 Jun 2009, 0218 hrs IST, Peerzada Abrar, ET Bureau


BANGALORE: As part of the cost-cutting measures to combat global recession, German and UK-based biotech companies plan to outsource more work,
transfer technology and tap India’s burgeoning biotechnology market.

“We will see more collaborations in industrial enzyme technology, bio-food technology, renewable energies and regenerative medicine. Several companies plan to bring in over $100 million investments to India this year and set up production facilities here,” said Martin Pohle, consultant Bio Mitteldeutschland Gmbh, which works towards strengthening the BT industry in Anhalt, Central Germany.

The Indian bio-tech industry is poised to grow by 18% in FY09 to Rs 12,137 crore from Rs 10,274 crore in FY08, said CMD of Biocon Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. This year, more partnerships are likely to be struck between Western and Indian companies, she said.

Germany’s Biobase Gmbh, which provides biological databanks, will be bringing more work to India and expand its infrastructure. “We have more than 50% cost advantage in India, and now only 10-15% of our work is done in Germany, 85% of the work is done in India,” said Biobase CEO, Michael Tysiak.

Companies like UK-based Oxygen Healthcare (O2H) are setting up new labs in Ahmedabad SEZ. It will source molecules from India because of the cost advantage here and market them in Japan, US and Europe. These molecules will be used for drug discovery procedures for diseases such as cancer.

“The Indian base makes us competitive. We are able to deliver the same kind of quality as in the UK and US, where you pay three times more compared to India,” said Ekta Ahuja, manager business development, O2H.

Britian’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Innovations (IPI) is looking at a JV with Indian companies and will transfer technology through its two spin-outs — Crystec Pharma and Lena Naoceutics. “With Crystec, we have a plant in China and now we want to set up a plant in India. We will collaborate with Indian partners through Lenananoceutics. A total investment of £20 million is required for these ventures,” said Anant Paradkar, professor at IPI.
India holds potential in manufacture of medical devices
19 Jun 2009, 1737 hrs IST, PTI


BANGALORE: India has a huge potential in terms of manufacturing complex and low-to-medium value medical devices given its strong R&D and
engineering talent base and the ability to offer devices at costs lower than those in the western markets, according to an industry expert.

While China scored better in terms of disposable devices needing higher volumes like syringes, India held a better potential in terms of complex devices, MediVed Innovation CMD Dinesh Puri said.

Addressing a seminar on 'Medical Devices-New Technology and Emerging Markets', Puri said India could, by leveraging its talent pool and other factors, offer devices at one-third or one-fourth the cost in western markets.

"Western markets are driven by a different business model," he said. The western markets are governed by insurance players who are the main cost bearers of health care delivery. Patients, therefore, are governed by a belief that the more expensive and more wide the range of health delivery is, the better is the quality, driving up cost.

With device players finding no incentives to lower cost of their products, the rates continue to be on the higher end.

The global medical device market, Puri said, is dominated by western market. Ninety percent of revenues is derived from West America and Western Europe. Four fifth of the world consumes less than 10 percent of the medical devices,he said.

"If 80 percent of world population has to take benefit of medical devices, we have to come out with our own solution for the emerging markets", Puri said.
i-flex ex-CEO Ghaisas to enter biotech product licensing
6 Jun 2009, 0345 hrs IST, Jessica Mehroin Irani & Nina Mehta, ET Bureau


MUMBAI: Deepak Ghaisas, who was earlier the CEO of i-flex Solutions when it was sold to Oracle Financial Services, has floated a company that
plans to enter into licensing deals for the Indian market with Western biotech companies.

Gencoval, Mr Ghaisas’ firm, is in talks with overseas companies and scientists to strike licensing arrangements for biotech products, which will then be sold in the Indian market.

Gencoval has already applied to the registrar of companies for one such subsidiary. It is also in talks with private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) players to raise capital to fund these subsidiaries. He hopes to kick-start this part of the venture within the next two months. “The idea is to try and create in biotech what we achieved in IT,” said Mr Ghaisas in a freewheeling chat with ET. Mr Ghaisas started his stint at i-flex as CFO in 1992, and five years later he took over as CEO. He quit from the software industry in late 2008.

“Having subsidiaries for each technology will benefit all the players. The scientists will benefit from the downpayment and the royalties, which allows them to continue their research,” Mr Ghaisas said. Gencoval is currently completely funded by Mr Ghaisas.

Gencoval’s focus is on curative technologies rather than diagnostic technologies. Curative technologies strive to not only control the symptoms of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, but cure them completely, while diagnostic technologies simply diagnose the problem or illness.
Scientists hope to bring Omega 3 back into food chain


Pune, June 19 Scientists at the Pune-based Interactive Research School for Health Affairs (IRSHA) have identified and isolated the gene that produces Omega 3 in flaxseed, one of the richest natural sources of the fatty acid, and are working on introducing it in a host of vegetables such as tomatoes, okra, and corn amongst others.

Six months ago, the team working on the project, being funded by the Department of Biotechnology, GoI, applied for an Indian patent for the process of using the gene.

If the project is successful, the genetically modified veggies can potentially be an important source of the essential fatty acid, which is necessary for good health but cannot be manufactured in the human body.

“We want to bring Omega 3 fatty acids back into the food chain,” Dr Prabhakar Ranjekar, Director, ISHRA and guide for the project, said. “Green leafy vegetables contain Omega 3 and when consumed by animals entered the human body through foods like milk, meat and eggs,” he explained. However, the introduction of artificial animal feeds has caused this source to deplete, he added, and the human body has become deficient of the ingredient, disturbing the ideal balance of 1:1 between Omega 3 and Omega 6 to extents as high as 1:40.

Dr Abhay Harsulkar, the scientist in charge of the project said that the team was working on introducing the gene in a variety of crops and not a single vegetable so that the general diet can become Omega 3 enriched. “We identified and isolated the gene a year ago,” he said, adding that it may take a while before such GM vegetables can come to the market place.

Medical practitioner Dr Ajit Gurjar said, “The role of Omega 3 in the body has been extensively researched and there is indication that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and reduce risk factors associated with chronic ailments like heart disease, cancer, asthma and arthritis.”

It is also known that the essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive (memory, brain performance) and behavioural functions.

When it rains, it pours!
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Biotech sector may get a separate regulator
11 Jul 2009, 0141 hrs IST, Sushmi Dey, ET Bureau


NEW DELHI: The department of biotechnology (DBT) is planning to set up the National Biotechnology Regulatory Board to specify and regulate
development of drugs and vaccines from natural sources such as humans, animals or micro-organism, a DBT official said.

“The board is being set up to distinguish between biologics and chemical based pharmaceutical products,” the official said requesting anonymity. Biologics are medicines and therapies developed from organic molecules derived from plants, proteins, tissues and cells.

At present, both pharmaceutical products and biologics are regulated by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). The central drug quality regulator gives pre-clinical approvals for experimenting and developing both types of drugs.

Domestic biotech companies such as Biocon, Wockhardt and Panacea Biotech manufacture biologics such as insulins, monoclonal antibody products and vaccines.

Biotechnology is an emerging sector and should have a proper regulatory mechanism in place, he said. “Biologics cannot be treated as traditional chemical-based drugs and regulated under the same norms meant for such drugs,” he added.

“The new guidelines will apply only up to the pre-clinical stage and not on the clinical trial,” the official said. Pre-clinical trial is the stage of developing a new drug or a therapy before it is tested in humans. A clinical trial involves humans while testing effects of a new medicine.

The proposed guidelines will be issued on aspects such as toxicology, feasibility and safety of the medicine during the pre-clinical stage and before forwarding the applications to the DCGI.

Indian pharmaceutical companies are targeting to tap the $65-billion global biotech drug market. The department is also in discussion with the industry and other stakeholders regarding setting up a separate regulatory board and framing new guidelines for biologics.

According to an industry estimate, the market for biotech drugs grew by 18% in 2008. DBT now spends close to $200 million annually to develop biotech resources in the country.

When it rains, it pours!
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Three biotech cos get nod to develop swine flu vaccine
16 Jul 2009, 0131 hrs IST, Sushmi Dey, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: India’s drug regulator has given approval to three domestic biotech firms to start tests and analyses to develop a vaccine for swine
flu, or the H1N1 virus, which killed hundreds across the globe this year, subsequently classified by the World Health Organisation as a “pandemic”.

Bharat Biotech, Panacea Biotech and Serum Institute will now be able to procure seed strains from labs in the US and UK, but will have to follow the strict bio-safety standards mandated by the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI).

Novartis AG had claimed last month that it has successfully produced the first batch of vaccines for the virus, but the global markets are yet to see a product.

The WHO had recently said that a fully licensed swine flu vaccine might not be available until the end of the year.

In India, however, producing the vaccines may take more time.

“We have given approvals to three Indian companies to get seed strains from the US-based Center for Disease Control and the UK-based National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) to start preliminary research,” DCGI Dr Surinder Singh told ET.

According to Dr Singh, the domestic companies are expected to take at least six months before they apply for an approval for the next stage of trials. Once the companies submit their preliminary test and analysis data, they will have to apply for potency test, pre-clinical trials and finally clinical trials before launching the medicine in the market.

The WHO has said countries could use emergency provisions to get the vaccines out quicker if required.

In India, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA) has a provision through which the government can allow relaxations in launching of a drug or a vaccine in the country if there is an emergency.

However, such provisions are used only after weighing the risk and benefit ratio. At present, the government has no plans to evoke any such provision as there is no community-wide spreading of the virus reported in India, Dr Singh said.

He added that by September, global companies might be able to roll out a vaccine in the country.

When it rains, it pours!
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Human clinical trials for stem-cell research on cards

AHMEDABAD: In what is seen as a boost to the stem cell research in the country, India would soon get to host human clinical trials for therapies
using umbilical blood cord (UBC) stem cell.

Chennai-based Apollo Hospital, America’s largest stem cell company StemCyte and Dr Wise Young, a leading expert on spinal cord injury, are in talks for conducting clinical trials in India using stem cell derived from UBC. The companies may ink an agreement by the end of this year.

On Thursday, StemCyte announced setting up of StemCyte India Therapeutics (SCITPL), a joint venture with Ahmedabad-based pharma major Cadila Pharmaceuticals and Apollo Hospital. SCITPL will have its headquarters in Ahmedabad and the facility will be functional by the year-end.

Clinical trials using UBC stemcell therapy would be carried out in three areas — thalessemia, muscular dystrophy and spinal cord injuries. Initially, the phase III trials would start for therapies to treat spinal cord injuries. The phase I & II trials have already been conducted in the US and China.

While Bangalore-based Stempeutics Research recently got the clearance from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to conduct trials for developing drugs using stem cells derived from the bone marrow of healthy donor, the latest move by StemCyte involves the use of UBC stem cell.

Talking to ET, Dr Wise Young who is professor in Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, said: “We had initial talks to conduct clinical trials using stem-cells derived from UBC in India. Hopefully, by the end of next year, we should begin our clinical trials here.”

According to StemCyte India Therapeutics president Tushar Dalal, the three parties met in New Delhi on Wednesday and had a video conference with Apollo chairman Pratap Reddy. “Dr Reddy has expressed his willingness and would come forward to undertake this project. StemCyte would provide UBC stem cells and its technology, while Apollo Hospital would provide its infrastructure and manpower for the trials,” Mr Dalal said. A tripartite agreement is likely by this year-end, he said. Dr Young would head the trials.

StemCyte has patented the plasma depletion technology that helps in collecting higher volume of stem cells and better cell counts, resulting in successful therapeutic applications for over 70 diseases. The location of the trials is significant, as India has a huge number of thalessemia patients. According to Dr Young, about 35% of the Indian population carries thalessemia genes and there is possibility of one-fourth of the children being born with the disease.

When it rains, it pours!
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Kerala projected as ‘next destination’ for biotech industry

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug. 21 An interactive session on ‘Kerala as the new biotechnology hub: Opportunities and challenges’ has projected the State as the next destination for the biotech industry.

The session was organised here by the Group of Technopark Companies (GTech) in partnership with the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Biotechnology, Kreara Solutions and the Technopark.

Dr M. Radhakrishna Pillai, Director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Biotechnology, stressed the importance of IT in research and development work in the biotechnology industry.

There is a distinct ‘connect’ between IT and ‘BT’ and new areas have recently emerged where IT is used for developing computational and statistical solutions for the industry.

The biggest risk being faced by the industry is lack of information regarding the analysis of genome, Dr Pillai said.

Delivering the inaugural address, Mr Oommen Chandy, Leader of Opposition, Kerala, said that the State is better positioned to reap the benefits of biotechnology and biotech entrepreneurs.

The researcher-entrepreneur has become a role model in research institutions and business circles and most of those setting up their own companies were scientists who had achieved recognition.

Most were young researchers with specialist knowledge, acquisition of which cannot sustain without introducing courses with emphasis in molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, bio-imaging and bio-informatics in the curriculum.

A panel discussion that followed set out strategies that Kerala may adopt to create an enabling environment for the growth of biotech industry.

Dr Krishna Menon, Chief Scientific Officer, Cellceutix Biopharmaceuticals, spoke on the importance of academia-industry interface to nurture the growth of the industry.

Dr Sanjay Hegde, Head-Clinical Operations, Piramal Life Sciences, spoke on the importance of clinical research and on how Kerala can become a hub for clinical research – especially given the availability of the rich talent pool and proximity to medical institutions.

Among those who spoke included Mr Satish Babu, Secretary, GTech; and Mr Rakesh Kumar Gupta, COO, Allianz Cornhill Information Services.

cerebral fallout
434 Posts
Interesting thread. I'm in the same field as well.

India needs to have some home-grown low-cost bio-tech solutions. It can be done, as I've seen pilot reports from a few IITs developing various devices in this sector.

On a separate note, Kewl Batty, what kind of program are you in? Where are you studying?

hazaron ke anna
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BT, nanotechnology research centre at your doorstep

A Memorandum of Understanding for this ambitious project has been signed between Deakin University, Australia, and Bangalore University.

According to the MoU, the purpose is to create a Deakin India Research Institute (DIRI), that will benefit Indian communities and industry. It also aims to create a collaborative and rewarding university-industry research model in India, BU Vice-Chancellor N. Prabhu Deva announced here on Tuesday. The funds for the project will be allocated by the Government of Karnataka. The MoU is for a duration of five years.
Read full artcile on The Hindu.

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Bt Brinjal Can Awaken A Sleeping Poison

By Suman Sahai

10 Novemberl, 2009

What, you may ask, is common between potatoes, tomatoes, brinjal, chilli, datura, tobacco and the deadly nightshade (belladonna)? They all belong to a plant family called Solanaceae. The Solanaceae family contains a number of important agricultural plants as well as many psychoactive and toxic plants. Solanaceae species are rich in complex chemicals called alkaloids and contain some of the most poisonous plants known to mankind. They produce alkaloids in their roots, leaves and flowers. These alkaloids can be hallucinogens, stimulants or outright toxic. For example, when potatoes are exposed to light, a chemical called solanin is produced which appears as a green tinge. Green potatoes can be toxic, damage an unborn fetus and cause abortions. Other plants of this family known for their toxic qualities are belladonna, datura and tobacco.

Farmers have been working for thousands of years to domesticate wild plants like those of the Solanaceae family, to make them safe for eating. Much of this exercise involved breeding out the toxins contained in the wild plants. Scientists too have used careful, selective breeding to “clean up” crop varieties which had good qualities but contained toxins. Now brinjal, a member of this family, has been genetically engineered (GE) to produce a toxin to protect itself against a particular pest. This seems to be a process working to reverse several thousand years of efforts to detoxify natural plants to make them fit for human consumption!

Genetic engineering in plants has not been mastered enough to rule out the creation of dangerous new products in the cells when genes are muddled during the insertion of new, usually foreign genes. Several cases are known when new proteins and toxins were produced in plants which were genetically engineered. For example, when genetically modified (GM) peas were being developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia to protect peas from the pest pea weevil, it was found that newly-formed proteins in the GM peas repeatedly caused immunity problems and lung inflammation when fed to mice. The experiments had to be abandoned. In another case, when mice were fed the genetically engineered Flavr Savr tomato, seven out of 40 experimental animals died within 14 days and the others suffered stomach lesions.

Genetic engineering in plants of the Solanaceae family could be dangerous since disturbing their genetic material through the process of inserting new gene constructs containing a battery of genes — including the toxin producing Bt gene — may trigger off metabolic processes that have been lying dormant. There are apprehensions that not only could new toxins develop but that old toxins that were removed by selective breeding may reappear. Disturbing the cell metabolism (by genetic engineering) of species that are naturally genetically hardwired to produce toxins, is likely to call up old plant toxins in these species.

Testing for food safety is key in genetically engineered plants; it becomes more so with the Solanaceae family. At present biotechnology companies rely on the concept of “substantial equivalence” to demonstrate the safety of genetically engineered foods. In this method, the overall chemical composition of the genetically engineered food is compared to an equivalent conventional food. If there is no significant difference between the two, the GE plant is considered to be safe.

The Mahyco seed company has also tested its Bt brinjal in the same way. However, substantial equivalence is a highly contested paradigm, favored by the biotech industry but rejected by most countries. This is because there is no mechanism in such an approach to detect unexpected or unintended changes like new toxic compounds in the cell.

Apart from the critical safety issues, there are other questions that arise with the impending release of India’s first genetically engineered food crop. There is no system in place for labeling these foods. Indeed, how can one in the Indian situation label a vegetable that will be sold from farmers’ fields, laden into trucks and taken to wholesale mandis. How will the vegetables on the vendor’s cart or the corner shop be labeled as GM? The Government of India recognises the need to label GE food, and its position in the meetings of the Codex Alimentarius has been consistently in favor of mandatory labeling.

Accordingly, the ministry of health has drafted rules under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act to include labeling of GE food and food ingredients. But there is as yet no mechanism in place to label GE food, nor have any awareness programs been conducted to explain the nature of GE foods and the need for labeling them. For most consumers, especially rural consumers, GE foods are a black box and unless they are made aware of the nature of GE foods, labelling would be meaningless. Despite these big gaps in preparedness, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has approved Mahyco’s Bt brinjal for commercial production.

Does this mean that the consumer’s right to informed choice about their food is about to be trashed? This right is enshrined in India’s Consumer Protection Act and the GEAC approval will violate the provisions of this Act. Further, labeling is not just about pasting a colored sticker on a brinjal, it involves a rigorous process of segregation and identity preservation (IP) to keep Bt and non-Bt food segregated. IP is a complex and expensive process requiring separation of a GM food from non-GM food, starting from farmers’ fields, all the way to vegetable shops. Without going through this process, labeling cannot be done. Or has the GEAC planned that all brinjals cultivated in this country henceforth will be genetically engineered?

And what about fixing liability for damage? There is no liability law in India. In the event of contamination of organic brinjal with Bt brinjal, what will be the process of recall? Who will be liable to the producers of organic brinjal? There are no provisions for monitoring the long-term impact of GE foods on the health of consumers. In case adverse health impacts are reported from eating Bt brinjal, who would be liable to pay compensation? How would the liability be fixed and what would be the quantum? In the absence of any kind of preparedness or safeguards, what would be the liability of the government for approving such food crops? And in the event of damage caused by Bt brinjal, will Mahyco be put in the dock?

hazaron ke anna
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State-of-the-art institute for stem cell research

Bangalore: Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan laid the foundation stone for India’s first dedicated institute for research on stem cell biology here on Saturday.

The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine or inStem will help understand the basic mechanisms by which stem cells work and their potential in alleviating and treating degenerative diseases.


The institute with around 40 faculty members will have a strong emphasis on clinical research.

The institute will also play a role in cautioning the public about “stem cell clinics” that operate under the radar eluding government supervision, Jyotsna Dhavan, dean of inStem, told reporters on the sidelines of the event.

With a mushrooming of such clinics in the country offering a panacea through these so-called “magic cells”, the public should make informed choices, she said.

The institute has been set up with a funding of Rs. 200 crore from the Department of Biotechnology and will be located adjacent to the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) which currently houses inStem. Locating inStem in the city will help in the cross-fertilisation of ideas from the many engineering, IT and physical science institutes here, Dr. Dhavan said.

The stem cell institute forms part of a “Bio-cluster” or an industry-interaction platform of which NCBS and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) are a part. C-CAMP will help provide and develop technology and enable entrepreneurship.


The vision behind a cluster is to create centres of excellence which will bring research closer to universities while also translating research into tangible technological advances, said founder of NCBS, Obaid Siddiqui.
Source: The Hindu

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Biocon LTD signs MoU with Malaysian-based BiotechCorp
22 Jan 2010, 2112 hrs IST, PTI

BANGALORE: Biocon Limited today signed an MoU with Malaysia's Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp) to explore collaboration and potential
investment in Malaysia's biotechnology industry.

Biocon is in talks with BiotechCorp to manufacture biopharmaceutical products and formulation, within Malaysia's Nusajaya, Iskandar Malaysia, called the Bio-XCell Ecosystem, Biocon said in a statement.

Biocon is also developing Biotechnology infrastructure in the Bio-XCell Ecosystem Project.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon said, "Biocon is keen to explore Malaysia as a destination for our expansion. Malaysia and the Bio-XCell Ecosystem in Iskandar Malaysia are attractive propositions. We are interested in learning how we can leverage this offering with our commercial plans and look forward to formalising our engagement with BiotechCorp further".

The collaboration while giving Biocon a conducive ecosystem to further its biopharmaceutical activities, would also enable the transfer of knowledge to Malaysia's human capital, create employment and knowledge workers, and directly benefit the growth of similar local industry, the statement added.
Reliance Life Sciences bets big on biosimilars
21 Dec 2009, 0200 hrs IST, Krishna Gopalan, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Reliance Life Sciences (RLS), a company promoted by Reliance Industries’ chairman, Mukesh Ambani, is looking at biopharmaceuticals as a
huge thrust area. The company recently launched its fourth biosimilar product, TPA Reteplase. Biopharmaceuticals are medical drugs produced using biotechnology.

“RLS has the deepest biosimilar pipeline in the industry globally,” said the company’s president & CEO, KV Subramaniam. TPA is the fourth biosimilar product from the company and more product launches are in the pipeline, he said. The three products that have been in the market for a while are erythropoietin, GCSF and interferon alpha. Biocon, Wockhardt, Shantha Biotech, Panacea Biotech and Intas are some of RLS’ competitors in the Indian market.

It is estimated that the Indian biopharmaceutical market is close to $1 billion in size -- this includes the domestic market and the market for exports.

“There are three more product launches in the offing over the next one year,” said Mr Subramaniam. Apart from the four products that have been launched, an equal number is in clinical development and five are at the pre-clinical development stage. The company is in the midst of conducting trials for clinical products in the European Union (EU). In addition to biopharmaceuticals, RLS has a presence in areas like pharmaceuticals, clinical research services, regenerative medicine and molecular medicine.

“Today, 70% of our topline are accounted for by biopharmaceuticals,” he added. For RLS, biopharmaceuticals encompasses research, development, manufacturing and marketing of products in the areas of plasma proteins, recombinant proteins and fusion proteins.

Mr Subramaniam declined to share details on RLS’ investments, revenues and profitability. “Substantial investments have gone into the business, which are now paying off,” he said. The company has been exporting biopharmaceuticals to markets that are semi-regulated since 2006. This is expected to significantly expand in terms of geographical reach over the next 2-3 years.

RLS was incorporated in 2001 and operates the country’s largest mammalian cell culture facility. Its UK subsidiary, Reliance GeneMedix, which has a manufacturing facility in Ireland, develops biosimilars for the European market.

When it rains, it pours!
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
GM tomato gives 45-day shelf life
Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, Feb 1, DHNS:
Here is some good news for housewives: A new variety of tomato, which will not rot even after 45 days but remain meaty and succulent, its smooth skin enclosing a jelly of golden seeds and dripping crimson juice, will soon be available with your locality vegetable vendor.

But how soon is soon? That is the bad news: You have to wait for at least a year before you get to taste of the luminous lumpy citrous fruit that will give the same taste and colour to dishes in which they are used.

Tinkering two genes found in perishable fruits and vegetables, scientists at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research here have come out with a genetically modified tomato that retains its texture and firmness for up to 45 days. The findings have been reported on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Though it is GM tomato, there may not be fodder for the anti-GM brigade as “it does not have any foreign gene and uses a safe promoter,” team leader and professor of eminence at NIPGR Asis Datta told Deccan Herald.

Datta and his colleagues have identified and cloned two genes – alpha Man and beta Hex – which accumulate in tomatoes at critical stages during the fruit's ripening. Both genes are associated with softening of the fruit leading to post-harvest loss.

The post-harvest loss in India – the world’s second highest producer of fruits and vegetables – accounts for 35-40 per cent of horticulture produce. The softening that accompanies ripening of fruits exacerbates damage during shipping and handling processes.

It plays a key role in determining the cost, because it has a direct impact on palatability, consumer acceptability and shelf life.

The NIPGR scientists used genetic engineering to “silence” the enzymes in tomatoes. The GM tomatoes lacking alpha-Man were approximately 2.5 times firmer than conventional tomatoes and those lacking beta-Hex were two times firmer. Both types of GM tomatoes retained their texture and firmness for up to 45 days, compared with conventional tomatoes, which started shrinking and losing texture after 15 days.

The transgenic tomato plants grew normally and produced typical amounts of vegetation and fruit, which matured at the typical rate. Datta’s tomato remains stable for a period far longer than GM tomato developed by crop scientists at Indian Agriculture Research Institute here.

Exploiting a different approach, IARI researchers delayed tomato’s ripening by 12-15 days. “That much of delay is good enough for farmers to transport the tomato crop to other markets to avoid glut in one state,” said K C Bansal, the IARI team leader.

Both teams are in the process of approaching the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) under the department of biotechnology seeking permission for limited field trials.

Once the RCGM approves it, the GM tomato has to be cleared by country’s apex regulatory body – Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the union environment ministry – before it is commercialised. The entire process can take 3-5 years.

Datta said manipulating the same two enzymes can help increase the shelf life of banana and papaya as well. “But transforming banana and papaya are more technically complicated,” argued Bansal.

When it rains, it pours!
2,450 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Bt Brinjal should not be allowed: Scientists to India
1 Feb 2010, 2232 hrs IST, IANS

NEW DELHI: With less than 10 days to go for Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's final call on the introduction of genetically modified brinjal, leading scientist Pushp Bhargava, who was also the Supreme Court nominee to the country's biotech regulator, Monday warned that if Bt Brinjal is allowed it would be the "single largest disaster".

"Scientists all over the world have opposed GM foods. Renowned scientists like Rupert Sheldrake and many others have said that they don't support GM foods. They have written to India saying that it should not be allowed. If despite all this and the public hearing against Bt Brinjal, it is released it will be the single largest disaster in the country," Bhargava told IANS over phone from Kochi.

Bhargava is the founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) as well as a National Knowledge Commission member.

He is also the independent nominee of the Supreme Court to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the country's biotech regulator.

He added: "If it is indeed allowed, we won't let it! It will end up as a third war for independence....We will seek legal action. We can file an appeal with the court, asking them to stop the commercial release of the crop, since Bt Brinjal will not be packaged and will look the same as normal brinjal. This is a processed food and the consumer must know what he buys or eats. So, since this highly processed GM food won't be labelled, it shouldn't be allowed."

Last year two leading European scientists who spearheaded the movement against GM food in Europe had visited India and appealed to India to reject the Bt Brinjal.

Gilles-Eric Seralinim, the president of the scientific council of the CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering), and Micheal Antoniou from the department of medical and molecular genetics at King's College, London, had criticised the Indian government's growing support for GM crops just ahead of the GEAC's approval to Bt Brinjal in October.

Bhargava stressed that when the entire European Union had denied Bt products, the only reason wellknown faces in the biotech industry like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw were vouching for its release was business interests.

He has in the past protested that Bt Brinjal was cleared by the GEAC and its expert committees without proper tests and under pressure from the developer Monsanto-Mahyco.

"They all have business interests. I know them well, and they are looking only at the vast export market that the US offers... I hope the minister takes note of this and puts a moratorium of seven years and sets up an independent testing lab facility. This will also give time to revamp the biotech regulatory system which is essential now," Bhargava said.

Last week, Bhargava alleged that the environment minister was under pressure from the Prime Minister's Office. Ramesh denied this.

Demanding that the government reverse its decision, farmers, scientists and NGOs have staged angry demonstrations and disrupted public hearings organised by the ministry on the issue in the past few days.

Ramesh said he could elicit the public response during his planned visits to key farming centres and regions of the country before taking a decision on Bt Brinjal.

9,457 Posts
^ An interesting article on it -

Not so scientific: BT brinjal report full of errors

New Delhi: After global warming BT brinjal may also turn out to be a scientific fraud.

CNN-IBN has evidence to show that the much-hyped genetically modified version of the brinjal has the same protein content as the regular version.

CNN-IBN accessed the bio-safety data submitted by Mahyco to GEAC and in one of the crucial texts based on which the expert committee gave the go ahead to BT brinjal.

The section on protein estimation in cooked brinjal says that uncooked non BT brinjal also tested positive for BT protein.

The question is how can a non BT brinjal have BT protein?

"Non BT brinjal uncooked is positive for toxins. Does it make sense? Something like this happens when you actually manipulate it. So when you manipulate data then you are making changes and you forget to make some change somewhere," said SC's independent nominee to the GEAC Dr Pushpa Bhargava.

When the claim was pointed out to the GEAC, it said that this was a typographical error.

But critics say, it just exposes the cut-and-paste manner of very crucial research.

Controversy also surrounds the toxicity of the CRY 1 AC protein present in raw BT brinjal but the expert committee says when brinjal is cooked the protein disappears.

But what about raw BT brinjal?

"Raw brinjal is used in Siddha and Ayurvedic system of medicine. Very small part even one in a billion if it is accumulated in the body for a long time, it may produce other auto immune disorders," claimed siddha physician Dr G Sivaraman.

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar says that the view of the expert committee should be final.

"If after all precautions they have come to the conclusion that this is beneficiary, we should not oppose it," Pawar said.

But even the chairperson of the expert committee conceded that more tests could have been done.

"If more tests were done and if there was a subtle or harmful effect it would have come out. However, regulatory authorities have not prescribed them for a long time," said chairperson of the expert committee, Dr Arjula Reddy.

The scientific evidence supporting the claim that BT brinjal is safe for human consumption is not conclusive and unambiguous which is why, even as Jairam Ramesh holds public consultations, 10 states have already said no to BT brinjal for now.

The question on everyone's mind is what is the need for BT brinjal?

When it rains, it pours!
2,450 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Govt overrules own experts, puts Bt brinjal in deep freeze

New Delhi Citing a lack of scientific consensus and the absence of any “over-riding urgency”, the government on Tuesday put an indefinite “moratorium” on the introduction of a genetically-modified brinjal developed after ten years of research, which was cleared by India’s apex technical committee three months ago.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who took the decision, questioned the logic of letting private companies drive biotechnology research in agriculture. The brinjal in question has been developed by Mahyco — a private firm in which global seed major Monsanto holds a 26% stake — in collaboration with two Indian agricultural universities.

“We cannot depend on private sector to drive the biotechnology research in our agriculture sector. I think research in seeds is as strategic as space or nuclear research. I am therefore a firm believer in the strong involvement of public sector research in agriculture sector,” Ramesh told reporters.

“India’s first green revolution was not powered by the private sector. And there is no reason to believe that the second green revolution would be driven by private companies,” he told The Indian Express later.

Experts expressed surprise at Ramesh’s line.

“I am a great supporter of Jairam Ramesh, but is he asking for a reversal of the policy on public-private research in agriculture prevalent for the last several years? Is it that what we have been doing for over 15 years is wrong? There cannot be a separate policy for the Agriculture Ministry and the Ministry of Environment,” said Y K Alagh, agriculture expert and a former member of the Planning Commission.

Alagh described the government’s decision on Bt brinjal as “unfortunate”.

Ramesh argued that there was no “clear consensus” in the scientific community over the safety of the crop, that many state governments had strongly opposed its introduction, that public sentiment was overwhelmingly negative, and that there was “no over-riding urgency” to introduce it in the country.

“It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal, till such time as independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country,” Ramesh said.

“By taking this decision, the government is being responsible to science and responsive to society,” he added.

The decision, announced a day ahead of schedule, came after a month of often-acrimonious debate in emotionally-charged public meetings in seven cities. The public meetings were organized by Ramesh after the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the technical body authorized to clear GM crops for use, gave its approval to the Bt brinjal in October last year, but left it to the government to take the final call in view of the “very important policy implication at the national level”.

If cleared, Bt brinjal would have become the first genetically-modified vegetable to be grown anywhere in the world. In India, the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated is Bt cotton, which has brought about a huge increase in yields.

Bt cotton was cleared by the GEAC in 2002, without referring it to the government. But Ramesh today renamed the GEAC, replacing Approval with Appraisal, to underscore the fact that, henceforth, decisions of the committee would not be considered final.

Ramesh also sought to make a distinction between Bt cotton and Bt brinjal on the grounds that the former was not a food crop.
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