US$ 300 billion bioeconomy by 2030: Can India achieve this ambitious target?

India's biotechnology industry crossed US$ 80.12 billion in FY 2022-23, recording 14% growth over previous year. Can it register fourfold increase in its revenue over the period of next 8 years and how?

Biotech sector is one of the most demand driven sectors. We are seeing the same respect and reputation for our biotech sector and for the bio professionals of India as we saw for our IT professionals in the past decades, remarked the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi at the Biotech Startup Expo -2022.
Top policymakers and industry leaders agree with the Prime Minister’s assessment. As per many official and unofficial statements, India’s bioeconomy is likely to touch USD 150 billion by 2025 and over USD 300 billion by 2030. The recently released ‘India Bioeconomy Report 2022’ by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), has pegged the value of the industry at $80 billion in 2021, reflecting a growth of 14.1% over $70.2 billion in 2020.  The segments such as BT cotton, biopesticides, biostimulants and biofertilizers contributed to about US$ 10.48 billion in 2021.
As per the Informa Pharma Intelligence report 2021, India has around 127 approved biosimilars, propelled by local biotechs, making it the country with the largest number of approved biosimilars after Germany and USA. On the vaccine front, India administered nearly 4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines per day (total 1.45 billion doses given in 2021), the report said, adding that the country conducted 1.3 million Covid-19 tests each day in 2021 (total of 506.7 million tests).
India generated USD 219 million of bioeconomy daily in 2021. The country is among the top three in South Asia and top 12 destinations for biotechnology in the world, with approximately 3% share in the global biotechnology industry.
“One can say with certainty that the biotech industry came of age globally in 2021 by delivering a record 11.2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines in a year. And in the previous year 2020, without Covid-19, the entire world production of all other vaccines was just 5.4 billion doses. Biotech companies set up new production lines, firmed up new supply chains for hundreds of key ingredients and components needed to deliver these vaccines and forged over 300 partnerships, says Narayanan Suresh, Chief Operating Officer, Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE).
From a nascent industry just few decades back to a full matured enterprise well recognized at the global stage, the Indian biotechnology sector is riding on a strong vaccine and biosimilar wave. India’s contribution to the global biotechnology market is expected to reach 19% by 2025. Currently, India exports vaccines to over 150 countries and is a leading destination for contract manufacturing and clinical trials.
Addressing the key challenges critical  
The pandemic has not only accelerated the drug discovery programmes at the industry level but also highlighted the importance of R&D as the core driver of future growth. It has also made us realize the criticality of backing R&D initiatives with right measures such as investments, policies, infrastructure and regulatory de-bottlenecking. However, despite the right ingredients to create an R&D based industry, have we really been able to fully leverage our strength areas?
Suchitra Ella, Managing Director, Bharat Biotech feels that India might get a sizable value share of the international life sciences market by concentrating on cutting-edge innovation.  She outlines her solution: “India must move quickly to seize this significant potential, and the government must facilitate this process by establishing a favourable physical, financial, legislative, and regulatory ecosystem. The scientific community, the business sector, and the government may all work together to achieve common goals in order to advance Indian biotechnology.”
Gaurav Kaushik, Managing Director & CEO, Meteoric Biopharmaceuticals believes that although relatively slow in adapting technological advancement, biopharma players are seeking ways to adopt advanced technologies. “The companies are incorporating technologies such as robotics, data analytics, different workflows, etc into their processes, as these tools have a great potential to drive innovation and remove inefficiencies and open new avenues to achieve sustainability goals.”
“Biosolutions are not new to the world. For years, we have depended on the power of bio-solutions to sustain life. Today, the greatest ability of biotechnology is to transform the manufacturing process itself, reducing pollution, conserving natural resources, trimming costs, and expediting new “greener” products to market, says Krishna Mohan Puvvada, Regional President, India, Novozymes.
“The government continues to implement several policies aimed at building momentum in this sector via tax incentives, subsidies, and investment in R&D.  However, the critical gaps that needs to be addressed immediately include creating a culture of scientific enquiry from high-school onwards, build world-class facilities to conduct translational research, leveraging the huge patient pool to set up and conduct globally competitive clinical trials.  This along with ease of doing business initiatives, ready access to long-term capital and high-end infrastructure, scalability of successful start-ups to take ideas-to-market should enable the development and launch of differentiated products for India and the world,” says Dr Anand Anandkumar.
Speaking at an event, Dr Rajesh Gokhale, Secretary, DBT, reiterated DBT’s commitment to foster enterprise and innovation with new and special emphasis of enhancing manufacturing and bio-manufacturing. He added that the process for vaccine preparedness was complex and DBT would facilitate with putting into place easier scientific policy on place.
Growth Drivers
Demographic Advantage
1 million+ skilled biotech workforce. Huge knowledge base
74 bio-incubation centers created through DBT-BIRAC and 4 industry clusters in Kalyani, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi NCR
Government Policies
Critical policy initiatives such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Startup India’, ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ and formulation of the National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2021-25. Favorable government policies like Draft R&D Policy 2021, PLI Schemes
Focus on R&D
India has invested U$ 1 billion in biotechnology R&D in 2022. A trebling within a year from USD 320 million to USD 1.02 billion.
Epidemiological Factors
Increasing population and lifestyle changes. Government expenditure on healthcare up to 2.1% of GDP in FY21-22, with a target of 2.5% of the country’s GDP by 2025
Growing startup ecosystem
As per the government figures, the number of biotech startups in the country has increased from 50 to over 5,300 in the last 10 years, because of the growing enabling ecosystem and prioritization. The biotech startups arising from a strong talent pool are expected to further increase by 2 times, to 10,000 by 2025.
“The new innovative solutions are expected from the biotech Industry, research institutes, and growing biotech startup ecosystem. All the stakeholders of the biotech sector, particularly industry, startup ecosystem, investors, scientists, scholars, entrepreneurs, and enablers like DBT, BIRAC have to collectively work to achieve the ambitious target,” said Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology.
“The biotech start-up ecosystem ably supported by a range of investors – including venture capital firms, angel investors, and government funding has helped to create a favourable environment for innovation and entrepreneurship.  The biotech industry is making significant progress by contributing 3-5% to the economy and growing at 18% CAGR,” says Dr Anand Anandkumar, CEO & Managing Director,  Bugworks Research India.
“The investments to the tune of Rs.4,500 crores has created an ecosystem of over 50,000 biotech start-ups with over 30 firms reaching $1 billion in valuation and employing over 10 lakh personnel.  This growth can be attributed to a slew of measures – funding support via BIRAC, inclusive and enabling government policies, expanding infrastructure in the form of research centres and bio-incubators,” adds Kumar.
“For 8 billion people in the world, healthcare challenges are plenty. Today no one can afford a million dollar cell therapy or a gene therapy treatment. We have to bring down the costs to more affordable levels and that’s where India can do well,” Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw once remarked at an event.
Agrees Dr Anand Anandkumar who feels that interdisciplinary research will pave the way to realise the dream of achieving a $300 billion bioeconomy by 2030.  “The 2023 budget proposal to create centres of excellence in training graduates in biomedical devices is one such move to create a pool of specialists in this high-value space.”
The biotech industry in India holds a plethora of opportunities, says Praveen Gupta, Managing Director, Premas Lifesciences who believes the industry has just begun to scratch the surface. “The increased demand for indigenous diagnostics, vaccines etc. would keep attracting substantial investment in the future, which would generate better employment opportunities as well. Experts say that this sector will see an unprecedented 5x growth in the next 5 years.”
Given the long history of diseases in India, the country has accumulated years of experience and scientific knowledge to prevent and treat them. Rapidly increasing number of biotech incubators across the country will boost research and promote growth of start-ups, a critical factor for successful expansion. Fueled by rising demand at both domestic and global levels, the sector is poised for mega growth in the coming days.