Bangalore: Indian biotechnology industry has shifted into high gear, with revenues rising over 30% to cross Rs11,000 crore ($2.7 billion) in the fiscal year 2007-08 that ended on 31 March, according to official data.
Exports at $1.5 billion contributed almost half of this, with 60% of it coming from Bangalore alone, says figures released by the Karnataka IT and biotech department at the annual Bangalore Bio 2008 conference on 24 April.
The sales of five leading biotech companies—Biocon Ltd, Serum Institute of India Ltd, Panacea Biotec Ltd, Wockhardt Ltd and Shantha Biotechnics Ltd—together crossed $1 billion.
As the industry moves towards its stated target of $25 billion by 2015, the Central government is committed to provide all support and funding, said M.K. Bhan, secretary of the Central government’s department of biotechnology, or DBT.
India is setting up a national biotechnology regulatory authority on the lines of the US Food and Drug Administration, which will start regulating the industry in two years, the secretary said.
To attract non-resident Indians, or NRIs, in the life sciences sector, DBT will start a re-entry programme for them this September with the European charity Wellcome Trust, and will spend 20 million pounds ($40 million) over 10 years for the purpose.
The department expects its “bio-partnering” initiative will result in $100 million annually from international university and other linkages within two years, Bhan said.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical firm Merck and Co. Inc. said it plans to massively expand in India. “We started with two people in Delhi two years ago. Today we are 400, and in a year, we’ll grow to 800,” said Richard Tillyer, senior vice-president and head of worldwide pre-clinical development at New Jersey-based Merck. The company’s new diabetes drug Genovia will soon be launched in India, he said.
Over 60% of Merck’s revenue in 2007 is due to its patents and product alliances, Tillyer said. It is is looking to India to “develop the next generation of drugs and vaccines.”
So far, it has been a US and Europe-based vaccine company, but now it intends to expand to other regions and is searching for “reliable” partners in India for clinical and commercial supply of vaccines, the executive said.
Merck already has two research alliances in India with Bangalore-based Advinus Therapeutics Pvt Ltd and Mumbai-based Nicholas Piramal India Ltd, but aims to expand its research collaboration further. According to Tillyer, it is possible to reverse the “trend of cost conundrum of big pharma” by aggressive partnering.
Nobel laureate Sidney Altman, biology professor at the Yale University who studied physics, did biology, and won the Nobel in chemistry, told biotech companies that “you are dealing with grand vistas in biotechnology—from wet lab technology to bioinformatics. You should make sure education opportunities extend to all in the society.”