Bangalore: Biotechnology company Biovet Pvt. Ltd on Wednesday announced the commissioning of Asia’s first bio-safety level 4 (BSL-4) manufacturing facility which will produce vaccines for small and large animals, addressing a significant gap in the application of new technologies to animal health care and a potentially huge market.
The first product, a vaccine for foot and mouth disease (FMD), is currently under trial production but will enter the market this year. India currently needs 200 million doses of this vaccine a year under its FMD control programme. The facility’s initial production capacity is 60 million doses, which Biovet plans to scale up to 200 million in two years.
Partof the total investment of Rs 190 crore has come from the Technology Development Board of the department of science and technology, and part from State Bank of India and the technology division of ICICI Bank Ltd.
Biovet is co-founded by Krishna Ella, founder of Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd. “FMD not only causes catastrophic economical loss to small and marginal farmers that depend on the animals for their livelihood, but also impacts India’s exports,” said Ella.
Even though India is the largest producer of milk in the world, and is set to be the world’s largest food factory according to management consulting firm McKinsey and Co., it cannot export milk products and sheep and goat meat due to the prevalence of FMD in the country. “If we eradicate FMD, our trade would benefit immensely just as the eradication of rinderpest (another viral infection called bovine plague) led to the doubling of exports from livestock,” said S.N. Singh, managing director of Biovet.
The annual loss to India due to FMD is estimated to be $5 billion (Rs20,000 crore), said Singh. The global demand for FMD vaccines is about 500 million doses and Biovet could very well break even just by exporting the vaccines to countries in West Asia, but it says its current focus is more on the domestic market.
The second phase of the production facility will manufacture other animal vaccines. Globally, the only such facility in operation is in the UK.
Bio-containment of such places is important to protect people from bio-hazards, as well as to prevent contamination of air and water by infectious organisms.
Biovet’s venture into animal biotechnology is significant as currently there is no Indian private animal vaccine manufacturing company for large animals, even though India has 20% of the global cattle population. “Nor is there any diagnostics to detect viral infections in animals,” said Ella.
With Bharat Biotech already active in human biotechnology, Ella aims to leverage human and animal science to innovate in this space.
“After all, there is a history of diseases spreading from animals to humans.”