Biotech sector hails budget proposals, wants more

The government has decided to allocate two new biotech clusters at Bangalore and Faridabad and two more agri-bio clusters at Pune and Kolkata. “These efforts will include global partnerships in accessing model organism resources for disease biology, stem cell biology and for high-end electron microscopy,” the finance minister said.

Looking at innovation in a PPP mode, the government also plans to boost R&D by setting up five technical research institutions through the department of science and technology.

The biotech and pharma sector needs a 30-35 per cent growth to achieve the $100 billion revenue target by 2025. Hence the plan to set up clusters and focus on research in the budget drew mixed reactions.

“While I welcome plans for the biotech and science industry, the budget addresses only one part of the ecosystem. To reach the $100 billion goal, we need serious investment of at least $5 billion per year for the next five years. It’s a good small start, but we need to think big,” said Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CMD of Biocon.

“It’s for the first time that the biotech sector has been mentioned at this length in the budget. The budget lays emphasis on quality control and research and the clinical research has been spelt out to be a part of R&D, making it clear to the I-T department, which never considered it under R&D earlier,” said Krishna Ella, CMD of Bharat Biotech. There could have been more clusters in and around Hyderabad as there are a large number of biotech firms in the city, Ella said.

The sector feels a lot more could be done to step up R&D by way of giving tax breaks and exemptions.

“To make the bio-pharma drugs affordable, the government was expected to announce steps providing incentives to enhance affordability and usage of such medications. There has also been an ambiguity about the service tax on Indian CROs where the service is provided to foreign clients. This affects price competitiveness, which has not been addressed,” said G Das, COO of Association of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises.

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