COVID-19: DBT’s NBRIC emerges as key convergence platform to fuel Made-in-India biomedical technologies

Within a month of its inception, the National Biomedical Resources Indigenization Consortium constituted by the Department of Biotechnology, has seen active engagement from several major stakeholders of Indian biomedical resources innovation community

New Delhi: National Biomedical Resources Indigenization Consortium NBRIC was constituted by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India as an urgent response to the national emergency arising out of COVID-19 pandemic in early May. It is envisioned as a collaborative Public-Private Partnership to drive indigenous innovation with an initial focus on developing reagents, diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for COVID19 and thereafter, expanding to all biologics and biopharmaceuticals. NBRIC is being hosted and led by C-CAMP.
Within a month, the Consortium has seen active engagement from several major stakeholders of Indian biomedical resources innovation community. 30 companies, big, medium and small, and academic/research institutes have come on board with the common goal of furthering the boundaries of India’s present capabilities in biomedical resources towards greater self-reliance and to cement our role as a key player in global biotech domain.
NBRIC as a platform has presented   synergistic collaborations between academia and industry. 7 NBRIC members CoSara Diagnostics, DNAXperts, Genei Laboratories, Huwel Life Sciences, MyLab,Richcore Life Sciences and Syngene International have either developed or inked strategic partnerships with public and private organizations, to leverage complementary strength in developing, manufacturing and deploying diagnostic kits and the required reagents and consumables, for COVID-19.
Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India had earlier said – “To meet our Biotech and Biomedical needs, the country needs to be self-reliant for product manufacturing and also the components, reagents, resources across the product development chain, N-BRIC brings together academia, industry, startups and MSME to serve not just the country but the world.  To meet the COVID 19 challenges, this is a good start and we hope to enlarge this to include all required resources, platforms and facilities.”
Dr. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chair, Governing Council, NBRIC had lauded the initiation of such a platform – “This consortium is of immense national importance at a time of an unprecedented global health emergency.  This will enable us to synergize and optimize the latent capabilities we possess across the pyramid of academic research labs, start-ups, MSMEs and large enterprise to deliver innovative solutions at scale for India and the world. I congratulate Dr Renu Swarup for spearheading this vital initiative.”
C-CAMP CEO and Director, Dr. Taslimarif Saiyed, also Convener of the NBRIC Governing Council had said at the launch of NBRIC “During these difficult times, we have realized the dire need of bio-medical resources for healthcare system and research community. This consortium, a converging platform for all stake-holders, is a major effort by DBT, conceptualized by DBT Secretary Dr. Swarup, to address this need across country and promote indigenous development and manufacturing. This could be a massive paradigm shift towards fostering high-end research and innovation.”
The technologies include novel, low-cost, gold standard RT-PCR test kits, ELISA rapid antibody testing kits, and also in-bench enzymes key to running these kits. Together they are set to enhance India’s testing capacity and reduce dependence on imported kits and kit components.
NBRIC member CoSara Diagnostics (Vadodara), was the first Indian company to get a test license from CDSCO in late March. The kit that was in a fast-track validation study in NIV, Pune has now received manufacturing license and is in use at approved private laboratories in New Delhi and in South India.
DNAXperts, a Noida-based bio startup and a NBRIC signee has received ICMR approval for COVIDO-19, their fast, RT-PCR based COVID-19 test kit.
Genei Laboratories, another NBRIC member, received a non-exclusive license from IIT Delhi to manufacture and commercialize their low-cost, accurate, real-time PCR diagnostic assay kit for COVID-19.
Huwel Lifesciences Pvt Ltd (Hyderabad) and one of NBRIC’s diagnostics portfolio member has received ICMR approval and NARI validation in late March for a real-time qualitative PCR kit that reduces the testing time to less than 2 hours. Huwel has received funding support from the Action COVID-19 Team, or ACT.
NBRIC member Pune-based MyLab is the first Indian startup to receive commercial manufacturing approval from Indian regulatory authority, CDSCO for their indigenous Covid-19 testing kit. MyLab has since secured funding support of INR 1 Cr from the ACT grant. Currently, MyLab is supplying diagnostic kits to the Chhattisgarh government.
NBRIC member Richcore Life Sciences, a Bengaluru based biotech co, optimized and produced two key enzymes, “Taq Polymerase” and “Reverse Transcriptase” needed for RT PCR COVID-19 test kits in partnership with IISER Mohali/Pune and IISc scientists. The enzymes were hitherto a huge bottleneck in India’s efforts to mass produce indigenous test kits.
Syngene International has tied up with Mumbai-based HiMedia Laboratories to manufacture and distribute an ELISA antibody testing kit developed indigenously at Syngene’s Bengaluru research facility.
As ICMR widens its testing protocols, a huge demand is expected for locally made testing kits, both RT-PCR and rapid antibody test kits.  Promoted by NBRIC, the mission-driven PPP collaborations above have provided the fillip for indigenization of biomedical resources.  Instead of looking to import, India can now opt for world class technologies developed by its own innovation ecosystem to meet this surge in demand.