Archive for May 2010


May 5, 2010

SEEING biotech as the sunrise industry, the Finance Minister, has granted several sops for R&D in the sector. But analysts and experts in the field believe the expected inflow of private funds into the sector could hardly meet the demand.

A recent study by Rabo India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on financing biotech enterprises says that the total private sector investment in Indian biotechnology industry till 2002 is estimated to be around $50 million (Rs 250 crore). “The requirement at the moment is however, far more, about $200-300 million,” said Mr Alok Gupta, Associate Director and Head- Life Sciences & Biotechnology at Rabo India Finance Pvt Ltd.

The Union Budget has granted biotechnology industry status at par with information technology and also duty waivers for research and development and clinical equipment.

In the last three years, biotechnology has been emerging as one of the most talked about sectors and the expectations are high. But the funds do not seem to be coming in. “After September 2001, many emerging businesses are having a difficult time raising money. This is because first-time entrepreneurs usually lack significant personnel; resources, bank loans are usually unavailable to businesses with no financial history, and venture capitalists are finding it difficult to raise enough money in a depressed market to invest in high-risk biotechnology ventures,” the report states.

Some of the private equity firms and venture capitalists that are active in the sector are ICICI Ventures, IL&FS, Westbridge Capital, UTI Venture, Canbank Venture Capital, IFCI Venture and Chrysalis Capital. Government funding both at the state and central levels have been found wanting. Although several schemes such as R&D and biotech funds have been announced, proper disbursal of the money is yet to take place.

The future seems to be rather bleak. Small biotech ventures are expected to die a natural death in the absence of private equity funding especially in the crucial second stage. “Entrepreneurs usually start up with what they have and with `angel investors’ chipping in. But once it has been accomplished, the second round of funding becomes crucial to carry on the work. Financial institutions are not comfortable in investing at this stage as there is no clarity on product pipeline,” said an industry source.

Also, competition will emerge from pure pharma research and development companies which will try and wrest some of the pie. Says Dr V.V.L.N. Sastry, Country-head, Firstcall Equity Advisors, “Investments have traditionally gone into the manufacturing firms and are now getting into biotechnology. But with the various sops in the latest Budget for pure R&D, biotechnology companies could be affected.”

The foray of big pharma companies such as Wockhardt and Ranbaxy into biotechnology has opened up another avenue.

“Pharma companies with biotech projects have a much better chance of attracting investments purely on the back of their proven performance. Areas that Indian companies have an upper-hand is contract research, manufacturing and clinical trials in the biotechnology industry,” said Mr Gupta.

There are Indian companies who are also looking for acquisitions of small biotech venture abroad to sustain its product pipeline.

Yogesh Agrawal & Sanjoy Gupta

Editor in Chief

Biotechtrove’s Blog


ICMR Recommends RS-GIS to control Vector Borne Disease

May 4, 2010
Remote sensing and geographical information system are expected to be an effective preventive measure against the emerging and re-emerging vector-borne diseases that pose great challenge to the researchers, disease control program planners and implementors.
The recent studies by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) task force to study the applications of the Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) on the vector-borne disease prevention, has led to the conclusion that these technologies can be very effective in controlling the vector-borne diseases prevalent in our country. The major vector- borne diseases in India include malaria, filariasis, dengue, Japanese encephalitis (JE) and Visceral leishmaniasis, claiming millions of lives each year.
Recognizing the high potential of GIS and RS technologies in vector-borne diseases, the advances in RS with the availability of IRS-1C and 1D satellites that have a better resolution, and the developments in GIS technology, the Epidemiology and Communication Diseases Division of the ICMR for the first time initiated task force projects in vector-borne diseases using GIS and RS application tools. The projects were initiated in malaria, filariasis and visceral leishmaniasis.
The six member task force headed by Dr S Pattanayak recommended the use of GIS and RS are tools that can be used to provide solutions in vector-borne disease control programs. The studies highlighted the application of RS and GIS for the management of vector-borne disease by predicting the high-risk areas and the vulnerable periods of disease outbreaks.
Dr VM Katoch, Director General, ICMR, said, “The information will stimulate the professionals and academia to take up more studies in this area. The RS and GIS technology applications can be used to develop public healthcare strategies for all emerging and reemerging vector-borne diseases.”
GIS is an information technology tool comprising computer hardware and software to input, store, update, retrieve, analyze and output geo-referenced data. It has the potential to develop thematic maps of the input data and overlaying and integration of maps, and has a strong statistical component to visualize, interpret complex real world situations to provide effective solutions.

Yogesh Agrawal  &  Sanjoy Gupta
Editor in Chief
Biotech Trove’s Blog

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