Biotechnology, globally recognized as a rapidly emerging and far-reaching technology, is aptly described as the “technology of hope”. There are many definitions of biotechnology. It has been described as including any technique that uses living organisms to make or modify products, to improve plants or animals or to develop microorganisms for specific uses. It has also been defined as the industrial exploitation of biological systems or processes. These definitions while, no doubts accurate, nevertheless, fail to capture the excitement associated with biotechnology. Across the world, some of the most dramatic and exciting developments are taking place in this field.
Biotechnology can deliver the next wave of technological change that can be as radical and even more pervasive than that brought about by IT. Employment generation, intellectual wealth creation, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities, augmenting industrial growth are a few of the compelling factors that warrant a focused approach for this sector. There are a large number of therapeutic biotech drugs and vaccines that are currently being marketed, accounting for a US$40 billion market and benefiting over a hundred million people worldwide.
The biotechnology industry, in a broad sense, uses organisms, cells, or molecules isolated from cells to make products or solve problems. Scientific breakthroughs in the 1970s allowed companies to capitalize on biotechnology techniques to make products ranging from better pharmaceutical drugs to enzymes that stonewash blue jeans. Today, the industry's nearly 1,457 companies employ more than 179,000 people in research, development, manufacturing, sales and other types of jobsworldwide.
For a country like India, biotechnology is a powerful enabling technology that can revolutionize agriculture, healthcare, industrial processing and environmental sustainability. The Indian Biotechnology sector is gaining global visibility and is being tracked for emerging investment opportunities. Human capital is perceived to be the key driver for global competitiveness.
Biotechnology as a business segment for India has the potential of generating revenues to the tune of US$ 5 Billion and creating one million jobs by 2010 through products and services. Given the opportunities that exist in this sector, the presence of trained manpower, strong knowledge base and rich bio-diversity in India, there is little wonder that more and more Indian companies are seriously eyeing this sector.
The biotech industry in 2003-04 has registered 39 percent growth over that in the previous year. The total industry size in 2003-04 was estimated at Rs. 3,265 crore.
According to a NASSCOM-KPMG Study, in India the biotech industry's R&D and services will reach a turnover of US$3 billion by 2010 and the bioinformatics market will touch US$ 2 billion. The industry is subsequently expected to reach 4,40,000 crores in 2020.
Growth over the years
India has many assets in its strong pool of scientist and engineers, vast institutional network and cost effective manufacturing. There are more than 300 college level educational and training institutes across the country offering degrees and diplomas in biotechnology, bio-informatics and the biological sciences, producing nearly 500,000 students on an annual basis.
Biotechnology has the potential of creating one million jobs by 2010 in India. In the beginning, there was only Biocon that is still India’s leading biotech company. C urrently, there are some 175 companies engaged in biotechnology field and out of these some 50-60 companies are in modern biotechnology. According to a study made by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) of 52 Indian companies in the modern biotechnology segment, the total project investment by these companies was over US$ 100 million in the last decade. Out of these 52 companies, 32 alone were incorporated after 1998, showing the increased interest from the industry.
In 1978, biotech meant fermentation and enzyme production. In 2005, the $1-billion plus Indian biotech industry consists of new drug discovery, bioinformatics, clinical research, and synthetic chemistry with approximately 230 drugs in the market spanning 13 therapeutic segments.
A number of institutes and universities have started biotech courses at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Right from Diplomas and Bachelors degree to Masters degree and even PhD. level, students can graduate in biotechnology and the related specialized fields.
Eligibility criterion for admission to biotech courses is 10+2 in science discipline. Some institutes specify a minimum percentage and even conduct entrance exams.
Institutes offering Biotech courses
- IITs in Delhi, Mumbai and Kharagpur
- Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
- AIIMS, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi
- Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, New Delhi
- Delhi University, New Delhi
- Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi
- Roorkee University, Roorkee
- Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Fields where biotechnology studies are applicable
- Medicine and Healthcare : Biotechnology's application in this area has helped in the development of various medicines, vaccines and diagnostics. R&D work carried out in this field has led to remarkable improvement in medical and healthcare practices.
- Industrial Research and Development : This area requires conducting research and development work, for increasing productivity, improving energy production and conservation, minimizing pollution and industrial waste.
- Agriculture and Animal Husbandry: Indian economy is very much dependent on agriculture. Biotechnologists have made major advancements in this area. Over the years, the agricultural output has been improving, owing to the improvements in the quality of seeds, insecticides and fertilizers. Biotechnology's intervention in the area of animal husbandry has improved animal breeding. Numerous kinds of genetically engineered, high yielding animal breeds have come up which has increased the output of dairy and meat products.
- Environment : Environmental biotechnology has become another area of extensive work due to the dangers brought about by increasing levels of environmental pollution.
Apart from these areas Biotechnologists can be employed in the areas of planning, production and management of Bioprocess Industries. Banks, Venture Capitalists, and Fund management companies investing in Life Sciences employ analysts who have a background in Biotechnology. Preference is for Biotechnology Graduates with an MBA degree. Law firms are starting to show interest in Biotechnology to provide advisory consultations for Intellectual Property Rights / Patent protection for life sciences. A combination of Biotechnology with Law would be ideal for this area.
Careers in Biotech
Bio-technologists in India can find careers in specialized Biotechnology companies or Biotech-related companies such as:
- Pharmaceutical companies.
- Chemical and allied industries,
- Food product manufacturers.
- Government and private universities,
- Research institutes and Research labs.
- Biotechnology Parks.
- Trade organizations