1 May 2011AsiaArchana Shanker

A revolution: biotech patents in India

In May 2011, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals entered into a licence agreement with Sanofi Aventis in one of the first-ever deals for a novel biologic molecule in India for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Bharat Biotech, an Indian Biotech company, developed a diarrhoea vaccine to be supplied to the UN and other markets at $1 each, making it the cheapest vaccine available in the market.

In 2006, India, despite having excellent technical manpower, did not have any novel biotechnology product to its credit. In 2009, Biocon developed the first and only novel humanised monoclonal antibody for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis in Class 1, and in 2011, Glenmark developed a novel biopharmaceutical for the treatment of auto-immune diseases.

A recent survey shows that there are around 400 biotechnology companies in India that contribute approximately 30 percent of the total revenue of the sector. There are around 50 research and development labs in the public sector providing high-quality R&D services at a low cost.

Some of the primary reasons for the impetus in India’s biotech sector include excellent technical manpower, low cost and genetic diversity. Besides the above, several worldrenowned institutes such as the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advance Scientific Research and the BARC Central Direct Research Institute provide high-quality R&D services to India and other countries.

Having said this, the two critical factors conducive to both investment and growth in the biotech sector are government policy on biotechnology and a robust intellectual property protection and enforcement mechanism.

The Department of Biotechnology issued a vision statement to provide a broad framework and outline the progress in this sector, including agriculture and food biotechnology industries, industrial biotechnology therapeutic and medicinal biotechnology, regenerative and genomic medicine.

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