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How downsizing in US helps India's biotechnology sector

April 11, 2008 02:09 IST

The Indian biotech sector continues to face an acute shortage of specialists. But now there is a ray of hope, interestingly from a dark story being narrated in the pharma and biotech sectors in the United States and Europe. The sector is seeing downsizing there. This has made scientists of Indian origin explore opportunities in India.

"The shortage and the noticeable gap is in terms of discovery-led drug development," said Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon.

"It is here that companies, through the help of consultants, are importing skills from the USA and Europe. The sudden development in the West is the downsizing in the pharma and biotech sectors in both Europe and the US. This is bringing a number of scientists of Indian origin back here exploring opportunities," she added.

According to Joseph Manoj Victor, senior research analyst, Healthcare Practice, Frost & Sullivan, "The number of life sciences graduates and post graduates in the country is growing thanks to the hype surrounding the biotech and clinical research. Although there is a quantitative growth there is very little qualitative growth. They have theoretical knowledge but very little practical knowledge and very little or no hands-on lab experience."

The biotech sector in India has close to 15,000 scientists. The Department of Biotechnology, through various initiatives, supports close to 75 universities, which offer post graduate courses in biotechnology.

Presently, these institutions produce over 1,000 postgraduate biotech students with specialisations in different fields every year. In addition to this, there are a number of private colleges across the country, which churn out a large numbers of graduates and post-graduates.

"The present large general talent pool of BSc, BPharm, MPharm and MSc, and a small talent pool of PhDs, is adequate to support a mushrooming generic biotech sector. However, there is a large gap in terms of specialised skills," said Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.

To fill this gap, efforts are being made and a few state governments have responded positively by setting up finishing schools. "The Karnataka government through private educational institutions, PES, Biozeen and also through initiatives like DIRI (Deakin India Research Institute), has begun to address this issue of manpower shortage," she added.

"Some companies have tied up with specialised private training institutes such as the Indian Clinical Research Institute to recruit personnel from these institutes. The recruits from these institutes are ready to hit the road running when they join the company," she said.

Anil Urs in Chennai/Bangalore
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