To reap rich harvest from emerging global opportunities, Indian Biotech sector needs a ‘lifeline’ from the new Government… Now.

Growth of Biotech Industry in India took a dip in 2008. It registered a turnover of U.S $2.56 billionwith a growth of 20%, over the previous year. The industry was clocking an annual growth of over 30%, before this period.According to the Association of Biotech Led Enterprises (ABLE)this growth rate can still be considered as encouraging. Some industry experts endorsed this view by commenting that 10% drop in the growth rate was mainly due to exchange rate variations impacting exports earning.However, many other do not subscribe to this explanation. They argue that global financial meltdown has caused an all-round liquidity crisis and lower demand in the biotech sector, leading to sharp decline in income generation.

It appears that even 2009 will continue to be a challenging year for the Biotech sector. As is known to many, continuous innovation is the growth driver of this sector and the main fuel for this growth driver is continuous infusion of capital, the pipeline of which is drying up during the current period of global financial crisis.

ABLE Survey on Biotech sector:

A recent survey, conducted by ABLE, reported as follows for the biotech sector:

1. 56% of revenue (U.S$ 1.44 billion) was generated from exports

2. Bio-pharma accounted for about 70% of exports

3. Bio-services are about 26% of exports with an encouraging growth of 46% followed by bio-informatics with 31% growth rate

4. The top 20 Indian firms accounted for 48 % of the total biotech market

5. Last year investments in Biotech were reported to have grown by around 21%.

ABLE expects a decent growth of the bio-pharma segment over the next five years. Bio-services and bio-generic exports to the regulated markets are expected to be the key growth drivers during this period. However, the moot question is: will the current global financial crisis act as a dampener to such bullish expectations?

Market forecast for Biotech sector:

‘Bio-spectrum’, in one of its recent reports, highlighted that with the new biotech policy of the Government of India (GoI), the sector is expected to grow to U.S$ 13-$16 billion by 2015. Serum Institute of Pune is at the top of the league table with a turnover of Rs. 9.87 billion followed by Biocon and Panacea Biotech.

Some analysts feel that the Indian biotech sector has the potential to register a turnover of U.S$5 billion by 2010 and U.S$20 billion by 2020. This is mainly due to increasing global demand for more affordable medicines in general and biotech medicines in particular. Recent introduction of ‘The Promoting Innovation and Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act’ in the US House of Representatives vindicates this point.

It is envisaged that this bill will enable the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to create regulatory pathways for marketing approval of ‘bio-similar’ drugs in the USA. Many Indian biotech companies, analysts feel, are preparing themselves to make full use of this golden opportunity as soon as it comes.

How is the ‘Global Financial Meltdown’ affecting the Biotech sector?

The impact of ‘Global Financial Meltdown’ is all pervasive in the Biotech sector, all over the world, India is no exception.

Because of global liquidity crunch, availability of capital to fund the growth of this sector has become scarce, leading to most of the growth plans, if not all, are being put on hold. Fear among the Indian Biotech companies of turning an easy prey for the predators in search of a good biotech portfolio, is looming large. It was recently reported in the media that GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis are interested to acquire a majority stake of Shantha Biotech of Hyderabad.

In abroad, we have witnessed such instances when Roche acquired Genentech, Astra Zeneca bought MedImmune, Eli Lilly acuired Imclone and Merck took over Serno.

Why is the impact of global ‘liquidity crunch’ more on the Biotech sector?

The impact on ‘liquidity crunch’ on the Biotech sector is more pronounced because all over the world this sector is dominated mainly by much smaller companies, engaged in the drug discovery and development research. Continuous flow of fund is of utmost importance not only to fund growth of these organizations, but for their survival, as well. Private equity funding is also dwindling up pretty fast.

GoI initiatives to encourage growth of Biotechnology sector:

Mr. Kapil Sibal outgoing Minister of Science and technology of the erswhile UPA government, not too long ago, announced the plan of the GoI to build 20 more biotech parks in India, in order to provide the required infrastructural facilities to this sector and promote high quality R&D initiatives related to biotechnology.

It is indeed encouraging to note that the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has already signed a 10-year contract with the Welcome Trust towards developing human resources of high quality, for the sector.

Emerging outsourcing opportunities:

Despite such pessimistic scenario, Indian biotech sector is bullish on the business opportunities from various types of emerging outsourcing opportunities being offered by the global pharmaceutical companies, because of their business compulsions, particularly in Contract Research and Manufacturing services (CRAMS) space.

Zinnov management consulting recently reported that outsourcing opportunities of over U.S. $ 2.5 billion will come to the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry, including its Biotech sector by 2012. This will indeed help the domestic pharmaceutical companies in a big way, as many players are now finding the transition from manufacturing ‘copy cat’ generic drugs to devising new therapies, pretty difficult.


To reap a rich harvest from of all these emerging global and local opportunities, the biotech sector of India now needs a ‘lifeline’ from the new Government. Ensuring easy availability of capital will be the ‘lifeline’, at this moment of global financial crisis.

In the battle against disease let the Biotech parks of India be seen as the ‘Armageddon’, as it were, global hub to cater to the needs of poor and needy – a symbol of scientific supremacy.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.