This month saw DBT take several major strides like the launch of the National Biopharma Mission, dedication of a device for screening hearing ability of new-borns to the Nation. DBT participated in an exhibition on Science & Technology in the Parliament, displaying activities and products supported by the department so that members of Parliament can facilitate their use for the benefit of people while Public feedback was invited on the newly formulated The National Guidelines for the Stem Cell Research.
Sohum—hearing screening device for new-born
The Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of Science and Technology & Earth Sciences, Shri Y.S. Chowdary, launched Sohum – the newborn hearing screening device developed by SIB start-up M/s Sohum Innovation Labs India Pvt. Ltd. on July 17th, 2017 at Prithvi Bhavan. The indigenously developed Sohum was formally launched by the Minister in the presence of Prof. K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary DBT and other dignitaries, as a valuable contribution to the Make in India campaign of the Government.
This innovative medical device has been developed under Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology; Government of India supported School of International Biodesign (SIB). SIB is a flagship Program of DBT aimed to develop innovative and affordable medical devices as per unmet clinical needs of India and to train the next generation of medical technology innovators in India. This Program is implemented jointly at AIIMS and IIT Delhi in collaboration with International partners. Biotech Consortium India Limited manages techno-legal activities of the Program.
Sohum is a low-cost and unique device, which uses brainstem auditory evoked response, the gold standard in auditory testing to check for hearing response in a newborn. As of now, this technology is prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to many. Start-up Sohum has made the technology appropriate for the resource constrained settings and aims to cater to nearly 26 million babies born every year in India.
National Biopharma Mission Launched
In a bid to create a globally competitive biopharmaceutical industry that addresses the country’s major concerns around barriers to affordable healthcare, Hon’ble Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Science & Technology launched the Innovate in India (I3) program on 30th June 2017 in New Delhi. The 250 million USD program of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science & Technology; is a first of its kind mission that brings together industry and academia to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the biopharmaceutical sector. This flagship program of the GOI in collaboration with World Bank will be implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Public Sector Enterprise, set up by DBT.
The mission was launched in the presence of Dr. K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology; Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, World Bank India; dignitaries from the concerned Ministries: Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, DG ICMR; Dr. J.P Prakash; Secretary Department of Pharmaceuticals, Dr. GN Singh DCGI and DBT officials.
The Hon’ble Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated “This Mission is anticipated to be a game changer for the Indian Biopharmaceutical industry. It aspires to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the sector”. The programme will specifically focus on the development of new vaccines, bio-therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices to better address the rising burden of diseases in the country. It will also bring isolated centres of excellence together, enhance regional capabilities and strengthen the current bio-clusters network in terms of capacities as well as quantity and quality of output.
Expanding on the scope of the program Dr. K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology & Chairman BIRAC shared that “This endeavour will help nurture next-generation technical skills; promote entrepreneurship; and support institutions in adoption of global innovations, technologies, and licensing models. It will provide young entrepreneurs the confidence as well as the systemic support to pursue their aspirations in biotechnological innovation, and transform India into a global hub for cutting-edge biotechnology research and development”.
Responding to an initiative by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, DBT participated in an exhibition on Science & Technology in the Parliament displaying activities and products supported by the department so that members of Parliament can facilitate their use for the benefit of people. Several MPs demonstrated avid interest in the products supported by DBT and expressed enthusiasm about their benefits for society.
DBT and ICMR jointly formulated draft National Guidelines for the Stem Cell Research – 2017 and invited feedbacks and comments on the guidelines from the public, an initiative to encourage public participation in policy making.
Proposals were invited for research collaborative projects in areas like pulses and oilseeds research, India-UK Industrial Waste Challenge, Indo-U.S. Genome Engineering/Editing Technology Initiative (GETin).