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Strategy meet frames targets for next few years

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Strategies for boosting biotech industry, stem cell research, genome engineering, computational biology and drug discovery were outlined at the strategy meet on biotechnology

The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science &Technology, Government of India is completing 30 years and will be celebrating its 30th Foundation Day in February 2016. It was felt appropriate at this point to assess and analyze in consultation with all Stake-holders the 4P’s- Progress, Promises, Problems and Plans for Future. In this connection a Strategy Meet was organized by Department of Biotechnology (DBT) on 31st August, 2015 at NCR Biotech Science Cluster, Faridabad. The Minister Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan presided over the meeting. The meeting was attended by the Directors and Senior Faculty of DBT aided Autonomous Institute’s, Senior Experts across the Country and Senior Members of the Civil Society. Secretary and all Officers of DBT were present.

In his Opening Address, Secretary, DBT gave an overview and detailed assessment of the impact over the years and highlighted how DBT has contributed significantly through its efforts towards:

  • Supporting Key Missions
  • Spear heading cutting edge research
  • Building Institutional and Human Resource Capacity
  • Forging Industry Academic partnership
  • Leveraging international strength through collaborations and
  • Guiding policy thinking and analysis

The Minister Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan in his Inaugural Address highlighted the importance of Biotechnology Sector to contribute to the society. He said that it would be important to develop a new sense of urgency and work towards preparing an Action Plan and address key strategies for the future to deliver perceptible and measurable impact for the benefit of society.

The Minister also stated that the Biotechnology Sector which has an important role and cuts across all other sectors, takes forward its strategy in partnership with other S&T Ministry, Departments and State Governments.

He appreciated the good work that DBT is doing in taking forward Biotechnology Research in the country and stressed the necessity to fix 3 to 4 focus areas with achievable targets in the next 2 to 3 years. The Hon’ble Minister added that malnutrition could be one of the key focus areas elaborating that whereas there has been much research on nutrition, the research needed to be translated to yield benefits for people.

In response to questions from management and social sector experts on perceptible and measurable strategies of DBT over the next couple of years, Secretary DBT underlined the following:

Biotech will see at least a 20 % increase in new companies, 20% more biotech incubators, 20% more social-sector partnerships, and 20% more Med-tech devices each year over the next three years

Results from stem-cell research will see impact on Sickle-cell anemia and Thalassemia treatments in three years

Work on maternal health, pre-term birth and stunted growth will result in significant improvement in nutrition and anemia treatment – programs for women within 2-3 years

India will establish a substantial presence in genome engineering and computational biology in coming three (3) years.

Mapping of the biodiversity of our islands and the coral reefs will be completed next year from which drug discovery centres will have access to novel compounds in two years

Major international collaborations will be established this year and the next following high-level exchanges with Japan (Stem-cells), France (Marine Biology) Canada (Stem cells), Netherlands (Vaccines), UK (Agri-plant), Netherlands (vaccines), US (Energy, Vaccines)

The Hon’ble Minister Science & Technology highlighted that while the overall strategy of the DBTwas clear, each institution and each unit of DBT should have measurable targets over the next couple of years.

The DBT aided Autonomous Institutions have contributed significantly to the specific domain areas of expertise and concerted efforts has been made to take basic research through translation to product development.

From the analysis it was noted that a number of technologies, products and patents have been generated and DBT has worked towards promoting Industry Innovation Research.

Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), which is a Public Sector of DBT focusses on promoting the innovation ecosystem and today a large number Startups and young Innovators have benefited from the support provided.A number of products and technologies have been delivered.

In the presentations made by the Directors of DBT Autonomous Institutionsand other experts a broad overview of various thematic areas was presented highlighting specifically where we stand vis-à-vis the global scenario, the challenges faced and future action plan.

At the end of the meeting after detailed deliberations, a clear road map for the future was prepared. The targeted mission is to “Accelerate the pace of growth of Biotechnology Sector to achieve a target of $110 billion by 2025”.

It was agreed to focus on:

  • Building a skilled workforce and leadership
  • Encouraging basic and discovery research and connecting this to our society.
  • Nurturing innovation, translation and entrepreneurship to transform our society
  • Ensuring a transparent and globally best regulatory environment
  • Building and fostering partnerships both at National and International level

It was also agreed that for effective implementation of these strategic decisions it is important that we create a matrix of the measurements of process as well as outcome.

Key Missions are also being formulated to address major National Challenges on Healthcare, Energy, Food Security and Human Resource.