Among the developing countries, India has made sufficient inroads into biotechnology research and development and hopefully, within a few years now, the country will become self reliant in this field of research and application.
The country has earned revenue of Rs 4,745 crore ($1.07 billion) from export of biotechnology-based products and services in 2004-2005. This is a 36.5% rise over that of the previous year. Six biotech companies have crossed Rs 100 crore marks each in revenue in 2004-2005. The number of biotech companies has grown to 280 in 2004-2005 from 235 in the previous year.
Presently, Biocon Ltd., Serum Institute, Novo Nordisk (Ind), Panacea Biotech, Mahyco-Monsanto and Wockhardt Ltd. are a few major biotechnology-based product manufacturing companies in India, which make brisk business through export. $1 billion mark has been considered as a psychological barrier.
In the opinion of many entrepreneurs, crossing this psychological barrier is a tremendous achievement. This is indicative of steady progress of biotechnology research and development and business
The country has a fine network of universities and colleges offering biotechnology education at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels and several research institutes conducting basic and applied research. There has been a well-knit cooperation among the universities and the research institutes.
Many biotechnology-based industries have come up for absorbing the technology offered by the universities and the research institutes. In a nutshell, the situation is conducive for a boom in the biotechnology sector. One of the main reasons for this optimism is that India is in a transition period from developing to developed status. Its economy has become nearly self-sustained.
It has a technological superiority in comparison to many developing countries of the world. It can afford to invest in the biotechnology sector. Secondly, it is a populous country and more than half of its people live in villages and the village economy is mainly agriculture-based.
The villages also have many inherent problems like shortage of fuel and fodder. Crop productivity is low due to the use of low yielding varieties of seeds, unpredicted rainfall, loss of soil fertility and diseases.
There is a vast area of application of this technology adapting to local conditions. Disease resistant and high yielding varieties of seeds, products of plant cell and tissue culture techniques, bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides etc. have been used to mitigate the problems of agriculture to some extent.
Although people from rural background cannot afford to buy higher end products, a sizable chunk of the population, basically from urban background can afford to pay for costly bio-pharmaceutical products, recombinant vaccines and biotechnology-based diagnostic kits. This has offered a promise for setting up of bio-pharmaceutical industries.
The Government has a Department of Biotechnology (DBT), which overlooks biotechnology education and research in the country. The Biotechnology Research and Promotion Committee (BPRC) recommend various programmes to the DBT. Several national institutes under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have undertaken biotechnology-based research as the priority research areas.
DBT sponsors biotechnology curriculum at the M. Sc level in 30 universities and institutes, spread all over the country. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi conducts a joint entrance examination for admission into the M. Sc courses in these universities.
Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) also imparts teaching at the M. Tech level in biotechnology. Indian Institute of Sciences (IIS), Bangalore, Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Immunology (III), New Delhi carry out quality research and development in biotechnology.
Orissa is not lagging much behind in this respect. The DBT-sponsored M. Sc courses in Biotechnology and Bioinformatics are instituted in the Utkal University and Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, both at Bhubaneswar, respectively.
Sambalpur University, Burla has also opened M. Sc courses in Biotechnology in the School of Life Sciences. Ravenshaw (Autonomous) College, Cuttack and Khallikote (Autonomous) College, Berhampur have introduced Biotechnology courses at the M. Sc level too. Besides, these courses are sponsored by many private institutions in the state.