Ministry of Science & Technology31-December, 2009 12:50 IST
Biotech – some achievements of 2009-2010
2009

Year End Review

2009

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The Department of Biotechnology in consultation with various stakeholders formulated a ‘National Biotechnology Development Strategy’, later approved by the Government. The policies and strategies of this document were translated into implementable schemes, programmes and projects of the 11th plan (2007-2012). Vision of the 11th plan is to “create biotechnology based tools and technologies that address the problem of largest section of the society, provide products and services at affordable prices and make India globally competitive in the emerging bioeconomy”.

 

Some specific achievements during the period of 2009-2010 are given below:

 

Human resource development: To ensure a steady flow of young scientists and technologists in life science sector the department continued to support ongoing post graduate teaching programme 62 universities and 8 new universities were added to this list. Number of fellowships for PhD has been increased from 100 per year to 250 per year, besides 100 postdoctoral and 50 biotechnology overseas associate-ships. 21 candidates were selected for specialized training in medical genetics, stem cell research, nano-biotechnology, transgenic animal models, devices & implants and bioenergy/energy bioscience etc. A programme to strengthen biotechnology component in existing life science courses at undergraduate level was initiated in 35 selected colleges. Post graduate students were placed in industry for training for 6 months and their number increased from 200 to 600.

 

Programme for Promotion and Innovation and Excellence: The objective of this progamme is to establish Centres of Excellence, and Specialized centres and to augment and strengthen institutional research capacity in interdisciplinary science and innovation in specific areas of biotechnology through programme support. Twelve centres of excellence and 22 level-II centres in the form of programme support have been established.

 

Some of the important breakthroughs achieved include: development of small anti-viral peptides against Hepatitis C virus”; design of inhibitors to work as anti-microbial and anti-malarial agents, along with transfer of technology to the industry. In addition, 77 scientists from ICAR, SAUs etc. were trained in molecular breeding; and 4 patents have been filed,

 

Technology Management: The Patents Facilitating Cell organized six workshops to create awareness among the potential scientists and academicians to understand the importance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) management in Biotechnology. To create a legal framework a bill ‘The Protection and Utilization of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill, 2008’ was formulated. Introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 2008, the Bill has now been referred to the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee.

 

Biotech Facilities, Research Resources and Services: Nineteen facilities have been established so far for services and related research in terms of genomics, proteomics, micromolecular crystallography, microbial culture collections and regulatory experiments for genetic engineered plants and therapeutic proteins.

Synchrotron X-ray beam line (BM14) time was acquired for 6 years  at European Synchrotron Research Facility, France in partnership with Medical Research Council, U.K and European Molecular Biology Laboratory for macromolecular crystallographic services to 130  Indian scientists and training of the field.

 

Bioinformatics: With objectives of providing infrastructural support for Bioinformatics research, training of manpower, and bridging gaps for accelerated growth of biotechnology and life sciences, 22 new Bioinformatic centres were established, of which, 15 were in NE States.  Special Fellowship Scheme for Ph.D enrolment in bioinformatics was initiated and 20 R&D projects in bioinformatics were supported.

 

Research & Development: Extramural Research & Development projects of national relevance having emphasis on basic and translational research in all areas of biotechnology such as agriculture, food and nutrition, human and animal health, industrial and environmental technologies etc. supported. Basic R&D support was promoted for new sciences for discovery and high level innovation centred around genomics, RNA biology, proteomics, systems biology, stem cell biology and nanosciences.

 

Tangible outputs: Out of 4032 projects received, 802 projects (~20 %) supported. There have been 545 research publications, filing of 47 Indian/ PCT/international patents; and development or transfer of 25 technologies.

 

The capacity for genome sequencing and genomics for discovery and use of genes is rapidly growing. As a participant in the international rice genome sequencing programme, Indian laboratories sequenced 16 Mb of chromosome 11 (against a target of 14 Mb) containing 1443 genes of the total of 3754 genes in rice genome. similarly, genome sequencing of chromosome 5 of tomato taken up  and towards buffalo genome studies 4000 EST markers, 2 BAC genomic libraries out of total of 322000 clones are being characterized; an EST database ‘Wild Silkbase’ has been developed hosting information on construction, characterization and analysis of ESTs (about 35,500) from the wild silkworm species. This is the largest EST database developed for any lepidopteran insect after Bombyx mori. India became partner in the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) with commitments of eight countries and eleven funding organization to generate comprehensive, high-resolution analyses of genomic changes for eight forms of cancer.

 

In the field of vaccines and diagnostics, phase-II clinical trials of rotaviral vaccine has been completed without any serious adverse events and preparation for Phase-III trials are progressing well.  The cell bank and technology for production of recombinant Malaria vaccine were transferred to Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL), Hyderabad for developing master cell bank.  A novel candidate for dengue vaccine was developed and expressed in the yeast and purified to near homogeneity in high yields. 

 

Stem cell biology research:  systematic basic   and translational research started in the country for the first time from 11th plan. CMC-DBT Centre for Stem Cell Research established at CMC, Vellore for the purpose has become fully operational. Noteworthy leads in R&D include : Four human embryonic stem cell lines  generated and  deposited in UK stem cell bank and NCCS, Pune; Immortalized breast stem cell lines with the potential to continuously initiate mammospheres successfully generated. Phase-I clinical study on acute myocardial infarction using autologous bone marrow mononuclear cells implemented at five hospitals in the country involving CRO; . India alongwith seven other countries  is now a part of “Stem Cell Network on Asia Pacific” (SNAP). Guidelines for stem cell research in the country finalized jointly by the Department, Ministry of Science & Technology and Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has been submitted to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for further processing. National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (NAC-SCRT) is being constituted jointly by the Department and ICMR as per this guideline.  

Focused bio-engineering programmes started at the beginning of 11th plan yielded results in two years. Major research leads would be further studied for translation into product/process etc.

 

The program Stanford-India Biodesign (SIB) Initiative launched   for five years. This is a leadership-training program in biomedical technology innovation in India. Through this programme, a group of next- generation innovators & entrepreneurs are being developed who will create new medical technologies. First SIB Center has been established jointly at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi in conjunction with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi

 

The programme on Nanobiotechnology was launched during 11th plan with projects in the area of agriculture, environment and drug delivery.  Some interesting  projects include  on synthesis, characterization and application of surface functionalized magnetic metal nanoparticles for bioseparation and diagnostics; role of nanoparticles for plant pathogen detection at early stage and waste management; nanocomposites as sensors and their use as smart delivery vehicles for pesticides; environment friendly amphilic copolymers for crop protection; nanofilters for water purification, delivery of bioactive molecules etc. Similarly 35 projects on RNAi technology were funded.

Re-entry R&D based fellowship:  DBT-Wellcome Trust Biomedical Research Career Programme and Ramalingaswami fellowships were initiated with the objective to make it attractive for the best Indian scientists working abroad to return India, to nurture the best scientists in India and to increase the number of world-class biomedical research locations within India.

 

Rapid Grant Scheme for providing independent grants to Principal Investigator. Based on 3 announcements for proposals 500 projects were received and 202 projects funded across disciplines.

 

Grand Challenge Programme: The objective of the Grand Challenge Programme is to support biotechnology interventions which can bring about significant value addition, cost effectiveness and competitiveness in products and processes. Seven such programmes launched in the  areas of Microbial prospecting for genes and molecules, Vaccine Grand Challenge Programme, Food Science and Nutrition, Accelerated Molecular Breeding, Biodesign, Gemomics and Bioenergy and Biofuels. One lakh microbial stains have already been collected and screened accomplishing target of 7000 per month. Food and Nutrition programme for biofortification of wheat, rice, maize, clinical trial of RUTF for severe acute malnutrition, ultra rice-iron and zinc fortified, designer crops-golden rice, neutraceuticals for wellness and zinc for acute diarrohea (7 state governments involved) started. Under energy Grand Challenge, Energy Bioscience Multidisciplinary Centre has been established at UACT, Mumbai, Algal Biofuel Network launched and elite Jatropha Plantation taken up for conservation and tissue culture. 

 

Biotechnology for Societal Development: the scheme involves technology diffusion of proven soft options of biotechnologies  focusing on SC/ST population, women and rural development are undertaken with the objective to utilize proven biotechnological tools for generating employment opportunities. Seven  bio-complexes are an integral part of the societal development programme. A total of 30330 target groups have been benefited during 2007-2009

International cooperation: Number of collaborations with the different countries has increased and joint workshops were held followed by joint calls for proposals and a number of projects were recommended. There have been 20 publications in high impact factor journals.   Three technologies have been developed and one patent filed.

Autonomous Institutions: There are seven existing autonomous institutions under Department of Biotechnology namely National Institute of Immunology (NII), New Delhi; Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Hyderabad; National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Manesar; National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), New Delhi; Institute of Bioresource and Sustainable Development (IBSD), Imphal; Institute of Life Sciences (ILS), Bhubaneswar. Recently, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), Thiruvananthapuram has been taken over from Government of Kerala. These institutes have generated 382 publications, 24 patents granted/filed, 9 patents in pipeline and 13 technologies were developed.

Establishment of new breed of institutions in critical areas has been one of the major strategies of 11th plan. Cabinet has approved setting up of institutions namely Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore; National Agri-food Biotechnology Institute with bioprocessing plant  Cluster in Knowledge city at Mohali; Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI); Regional Centre for Biotechnology Training and Education under the auspices of the UNESCO, Faridabad and Institute of Biomedical Genomics in Kolkata and efforts are being made to establish institutions. In other proposed new institutions, National Institute of Animal Biotechnology, Hyderabad has been approved by EFC.

Regional biotechnology clusters , around the new institutions are being planned to promote innovation and discovery. These are the Translational Health Cluster at Faridabad, the Agrifood Cluster at Mohali and the Innovation Cluster at Bangaloore. Together, it is hoped that these will become the technology and innovation gateways of India.

Technology Incubators, Pilot Level Facilities, Biotechnology Parks: recognising the need for incubation space to SMEs R&D and technology development parks and incubators are funded in different state with their participation   Biotechnology Incubation Centre at Shapoorji Pallonji Park has signed an MOU for operations with M/s Alexdria – global incubator management company; Promoter for Food Biotech Park at Mohali selected; TICEL Park in Chennai supported for expansion of incubation place; and IIT Guwahati biotech incubator is implementing its plans.  The Biotechnology Park at Lucknow is operational on 8 acres of land. with 16 tenants engaged.

Public Private Partnerships: Incremental Increase in the projects involving collaboration with industry and promotion of innovation in SMEs engaged in R&D is yet another criteria for measuring performance.Three new schemes, the ignition grant to reach scientist-innovators, “Small Business Innovative Research Initiative “(SBIRI) and “Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP) have now been instituted. Of the 602 proposals received 56 were approved for funding and 15 more are in the pipeline for consideration.

Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP)  new PPP scheme launched in 2008 as viability gap funding scheme on cost sharing basis for achieving competitiveness in frontier biotechnologies and  to fill the gap for providing public support in development of high risk futuristic technologies focused on “Break through research”, creating IPR and benefit of society. The response to BIPP’s first call has been excellent with 80 proposals and 50 concepts within a month of announcement; 9 proposals have been technically approved for funding.

The Promotion of Innovation in SMEs is facilitated through institutionalisation by launching of “Biotechnology Industry R&D Assistance Programme” as an interim project approved to promote and facilitate industrial research through technology transfer, IP management, technology acquisition and technology forecasting. Implementation of this programme over the next few years would enable graduation to full-fledged council through EFC to act as a formidable interface between academia and private sector, particular SMEs and start-ups to nurture and catalyze innovation in private sector.

  GG/BS/VK


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