3 Recent Developments in India’s Biotechnology and Life Sciences Sector
According to the Department of Biotechnology’s latest report, the Indian biotech industry expanded by 14% this year, with research and development (R&D) funding tripling from $320 million in 2020 to $1.02 billion in 2021. From an industry that evolves at such a fast pace, here are 3 big updates from the month of August that are worth a read:
1. Bharat Biotech expects approval for testing their intranasal COVID-19 vaccine
If all goes according to plan, Bharat Biotech, which is developing a COVID-19 intranasal vaccine candidate, hopes to receive regulatory approval this month, according to Mr. Krishna Ella, chairman and managing director of the business.
He has also claimed that one of only two facilities in the world capable of generating the monkeypox illness vaccine is BBIL (Bharat Biotech International Limited), which has a vaccine production unit in Ankleshwar, Gujarat. The other is in Germany’s Bavarian Nordic region.
According to Mr. Ella, the company completed clinical testing of the nasal vaccination with roughly 4,000 participants, and no side effects or adverse reactions have been documented to date. The intranasal vaccine developed by BBIL as a booster dose will undergo clinical trials with approval from the Drug Controller General of India. Separately, the DCGI authorised the company to carry out phase 3 clinical research to assess the immunogenicity and security of BBV-154 (intranasal) and Covaxin. Nine locations are now authorised to host this trial.
Justifying the need for a nasal coronavirus vaccine, Mr. Ella stated that any injectable vaccination only protects against the lower levels of the body. As a result, people who received injectable immunizations may still be RT-PCR positive, whereas the nasal jab has the ability to protect the entire body.
2. According to recent reports, the Indian Biotech Sector’s funding is about to go beyond $1 billion this year.
R&D spending in the Indian biotech sector has increased from $320 million in 2020 to $1.02 billion in 2021. According to the research paper, India’s biotechnology sector might be worth $150 billion by 2025 and $300 billion by 2030. FDI in the Indian bio-economy is expected to reach $830 million in 2021, up from $780 million in 2020. The pharmaceutical business accounts for around 49% of the Indian biotech sector, while COVID-related technologies account for 18%, with agriculture accounting for 13%. As per the reports, diagnostics will account for 52% of the pharma industry in 2021, followed by therapeutics (26%), with diagnostics and therapeutics accounting for more than $30 billion of India’s bio-economy. Union Minister Jitendra Singh also announced a special Biotech Ignition Grant for India’s North Eastern Region at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Delhi (BIG-NER). The fund would provide up to Rs 50 lakh in financial support to 25 start-ups and entrepreneurs from the North East area in order to develop biotech solutions.
3. Scientists from IISER, Pune extract record uranium from seawater that could power nuclear plants
As the globe grapples with the consequences of climate change and demand rises to cut emissions from fossil fuel-based energy sources, countries are exploring new ways to transition to renewable energy, including converting existing technology to non-polluting means. Because of its low concentration, uranium recovery from saltwater is regarded as highly difficult. The World Nuclear Association reports that uranium concentrations in seawater are substantially lower than those found on land.
Researchers have long struggled to create an appropriate adsorbent to extract uranium from saltwater that combines high capacity, great selectivity, and ultra-fast kinetics. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune made a successful attempt to extract uranium from seawater, and their findings were recently published in the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The IISER research team created a rare ionic macroporous metal-organic framework (MOF) that can successfully trap uranium. They were able to extract 96.3 per cent of uranium in two hours, compared to the other current adsorbent.
“Combined with exceptional selectivity, record capacity, ultrafast kinetics, and long service life, this material could be a potential candidate for the efficient extraction of uranium from natural seawater. The selective ion exchanged harvesting method introduces the concept of extracting uranium from natural seawater & may lead to an unlimited supply of uranium at an economically affordable cost,” said Professor Sujit K. Ghosh, the principal investigator of the study.