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May 17, 2017 08:25 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Modi govt, World Bank line up $250 million to fund biotech startups

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved USD 250 million corpus as part of Biopharma Mission to fund biotech startups and accelerate innovation. World Bank has agreed to line up USD 125 million for the fund.

Modi govt, World Bank line up $250 million to fund biotech startups

Viswanath Pilla

Moneycontrol News

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved USD 250 million corpus as part of Biopharma Mission to fund biotech startups and accelerate innovation in the areas of vaccines, bio-therapeutics and medical devices. World Bank has agreed to line up USD 125 million for the fund.

In addition to funding startups and research projects, the corpus will also be used to establish world class bio-clusters to help build next generation health technologies.

The Biopharma Mission will be implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) — a public sector undertaking of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) with involvement of industry and academia.

“The programme will leverage global expertise and provide a holistic and integrated approach to strengthen and support the entire product development value chain for accelerating the research leads to product development,” DBT said in a statement.

“This will help not only in immediate product development addressing public health needs, but will also help to create an ecosystem which will facilitate development of a continuous pipeline of products,” the statement added.

Kiran Majumdar-Shaw, chairperson of Biocon called the government move as "game changing" on Twitter.

India aims to capture 5 percent of the global pharmaceutical market by 2022, from the current share of 3 percent.

“This will provide a huge support to create all the infrastructure and human resource through start-ups, researchers and SMEs,” said Prof G Padmanaban, former director of IISc, Bangalore.

“This will help to realise the full potential to make vaccines, bio therapeutics, diagnostics and devices in the country,” Padmanaban added.

Despite having a first-mover advantage in production of affordable vaccines and biopharmaceuticals through recombinant DNA technology, India is falling behind China and South Korea. The two countries have now emerged as major producers of vaccines and biopharmaceuticals with massive push from their governments.

“Government funding is critical for biotech startups, given the inherent risk, lack of private funding and long gestation projects,” said Narasimha Rao Nedunuri, chief executive officer (CEO) of Clonz Biotech, which develops biosimilars or copies of complex biological drugs, tougher and expensive to develop as they are made from living cells and cannot be identically replicated.

Nedunuri while appreciating government initiative complains says that from the date of call to see the fund into the account of an entrepreneur, it takes at least a year. For academics that’s fine but for a biotech startup it makes things difficult given the high burn rate we have.
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