The Covid 19 pandemic has been devastating for the whole world and has resulted in countless businesses getting closed down throughout the world. What is not to be forgotten however is that every crisis brings opportunities with itself for some and misery for others. Startups in general, have benefitted a lot from the pandemic. Indian startups have also been the beneficiaries of the pandemic. This pandemic has acted as a catalyst for biotech startups to become front-line warriors for a long-term fight against pandemics and endemics. We have all come to realize the importance of vaccines and other medical products like ventilators and PPE kits in this pandemic. India, in particular, had to learn this lesson a very harsh way. It has put a focus on biotech, the pharmaceutical industry, and the wider healthcare domain. More importantly, it has put a spotlight on the need for innovative products. India is home to one of the fastest growing startup ecosystems in the world. Biotech startups have to take the lead to keep us prepared for any such events in the future and also drive innovation at the same time.


Things working in favour for India

There are numerous factors which are unique to India and can help the biotech sector grow leaps and bounds if utilized well. Some of these factors are discussed below.

A huge population often works against the interests of the country but not if that population is young and vibrant. India has the advantage of having 50% of its 1.3 billion people in the age bracket of less than 25. This means that there is a massive untapped potential in India which can be used to develop a big biotechnology sector.  We have a large pool of young workforce and we need them to be reasonably skilled so that they can contribute to the growth of this sector. There are a large number of scientists and engineers which can make this growth a very achievable target. It will also be a big step towards achieving self sustainability, something which has been stressed by the leaders of our country a lot in the recent times.

Another big advantage that India has when it comes to the biotechnology sector is the  infrastructural arrangements. Under the Union Budget 2021-22, the government has announced the plans to set up a total of 9 biosafety level 3 laboratories through Pradhan Mantri Atma Nirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojna.[i] This will certainly provide a much needed impetus for the growth of the sector. To go with this, 9 DBT supported biotechnology parks and 60 BIRAC supported bio incubators will go a long way in ensuring that there is no shortage of infrastructure when the time comes. It would be a herculean task to achieve success in this sector without a good infrastructure and it is good to see the government taking steps to ensure that this problem does not arise at all.

The policy support is one more factor which is very crucial for any objective to be achieved. A 100% FDI under automatic route for greenfield projects for pharmaceuticals is a great start for sure. While 74% FDI is permitted for under automatic route for brownfield projects, 100% FDI under government route is permitted for brownfield investments. A further 100% FDI under automatic route has also been provided for the manufacturing of medical devices. Medical devices can be extremely crucial when a public emergency breaks out and we are very familiar with this fact. In light of these facts, these policy decisions make a lot more sense and are a step into the right direction.

One more factor that makes India a ground for biotechnology growth is that the patient pool is expected to rise in India in the coming decades by a whopping 20%. [ii]This will mainly be due to the increase in age of the young population that India currently has. In the next 10 years, there will also be entry of a number of new diseases previously not prevalent in India because of the lifestyle and dietary changes of the Indians.


  Current situation of Biotechnology Sector in India


The Indian biotech industry comprises of over 5,000 companies (760 core companies and 4,240 start-ups) and is aligned around five major segments: Bio Pharma, Bio Agriculture, Bio Industrial, and combined segment of Bio Services comprising of Bio IT, CROs, and Research Services. The sector plays a key role in the global vaccine market, as the leader in the global supply of DPT, BCG, and measles vaccines, and is also a key contributor of 70% of WHO’s vaccines (essential Immunization Schedule).

Researches have shown that the Indian biotech industry is destined to climb and climb in the upcoming years. India is among the top 12 destinations for biotechnology in the world, with approximately 3% share if the global biotechnology industry. The sector is a key contributor to India’s vision of reaching a $ 5 Trillion economy by 2024.

The Indian biotechnology industry that was valued at 70 billion dollars in 2020, is expected to reach 150 billion dollars by 2025. That is a rise of more than 100%. Over 4237+ biotech startups, expected to reach 10,000 by 2025. India, currently has 760+ core biotech companies and a massive 200+ Biotech products.

The rising contribution of this sector to national GDP (2.7% in 2020 against 2.2% in 2019 can not be overlooked at all). India led the world into Biosimilar Innovation and  became the 1st country to approve and market a biosimilar in 2000 with over 98 biosimilar approved (till September 2019), which is the highest in the world.


                            Big players in the sector

One of the biggest and most popular players in the Indian biotechnology sector is Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd. It has strengthened its position at the top by playing a very important role during the Covid pandemic by manufacturing vaccines to be administered in India. It was not an easy task but was done reasonably well by the institute. Serum Institute of India is ranked as India’s No. 1 biotechnology company, manufacturing highly specialized life saving biologicals like vaccines using cutting edge genetic and cell based technologies, antisera and other medical specialties. Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. is now the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses produced and sold globally (more than 1.5 billion doses) which includes Polio vaccine as well as Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, BCG, r-Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccines. It is estimated that about 65% of the children in the world receive at least one vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute. Vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute are accredited by the World Health Organization, Geneva and are being used in around 170 countries across the globe in their national immunization programs, saving millions of lives throughout the world.

Panacea Biotec is another big name in the Indian biotechnology sector. Panacea Biotec is an Innovation driven Biotechnology company doing Research and Development, Manufacturing, Sales, Distribution and Marketing of Pharmaceuticals, Vaccines and Biosimilar.

Panacea Biotec was set up in the year 1984, under the name of Panacea Drugs Private  Limited with a commitment to make Innovative Products Affordable and Accessible to the masses. It got publically listed on Indian National Stock Exchanges in September 1995 as Panacea Biotec Ltd. It is currently witnessing a period of expansion and is likely to grow in the coming years. Panacea Biotec is one of the largest Vaccine Manufacturing company  in India and is well acknowledged by the UN Health Agencies in partnering the Polio eradication initiative with supplies of millions of doses of WHO Pre-qualified Polio vaccine.[iii]

One more name that can not be missed when talking about the sector in India is Biocon Ltd. A private entity established in the year 1978 with a corporate office in Bangalore, India, is one of the most remarkable companies in the industry at present. The company has been leading with a brilliant research and development areas. Biocon has also managed to create medicines for many ailments with the help of its abled scientists who aim to create the best solution for various prevailing diseases. The company has been trusted by the people across the nation, hence, making the company among the top three in the industry.

SIRO Clinpharm is another company that has existed for a very long time in this sector. The company was established in the year 1996, with a corporate office in Thane, India. The company has been moving forward with the aim of being the top manufacturer in the nation. With its new discoveries, it has also made it possible for the dream to be on the top to get accomplished within no time. The company apart from working in the field of biotechnology has also expanded its roots to the drug development sector of India.



As we can clearly see, the road is set for India to take the lead in the biotechnology sector and also become a leader in innovation and research. It is upon the government and the entrepreneurs to now take the right steps and help the country’s economy grow and at the same time see the country become self sustainable. India is also one of the first countries to have a department dedicated to Biotechnology. Moreover, the Department has also set up BIRAC (Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council) which is a not-for-profit agency to strengthen and empower emerging Biotechnology enterprises to undertake strategic research and innovation, by handholding them from ideation to the commercialization of their products/ technologies. This, coupled with the relaxations provided in foreign investments into various medical products, will go a long way into ensuring that India has a good foundation to build upon.

The startup ecosystem has seen a steady growth in India in the last few years. Entrepreneurs are willing to take more risks and have been able to convince investors of investing in their ideas. Foreign investment has been flowing into Indian startups. Biotechnology is a sector with the potential for a lot of growth and it will be great to see India’s response to this opportunity. The policy makers and risk takers have to combine to take full advantage of this opportunity and enable India to become a net exporter of affordable medical kits, devices and vaccines through policy and funding and removing infrastructural roadblocks.







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