BIOTECH­NOL­OGY: Where is it heading?

BioSpectrum (India) - - BIO CONTENT - Dr Man­beena Chawla man­beena.chawla@mmac­tiv.com

On one hand, the biotech­nol­ogy in­dus­try is starved of skilled tal­ent pool. On the other hand, there are sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges, pro­duc­ing num­ber of un­em­ploy­able grad­u­ates. While some of them are strug­gling due to lack of stu­dents. So se­ri­ous think­ing needs to be done ur­gently to over­come this prob­lem.

Since the in­cep­tion of biotech­nol­ogy courses in the late 90s, the sit­u­a­tion is still the same stat­ing that the num­ber of job open­ings and pay packages are both very low when com­pared with IT and other fields.

There are a num­ber of col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties across In­dia that offer Biotech­nol­ogy courses ei­ther in the form of un­der­grad­u­ate courses such as B.Sc., B.Tech, or post grad­u­ate courses such as M.Sc., M.Tech, MBA.

B.Tech de­gree in Biotech­nol­ogy cov­ers sub­jects such as Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy, Molec­u­lar Bi­ol­ogy, Ge­net­ics, Cell Bi­ol­ogy and en­gi­neer­ing sub­jects like Bio­pro­cess En­gi­neer­ing, Bio­chem­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing, Ther­mo­dy­nam­ics, Mass Trans­fer etc. On the other hand, a B.Sc de­gree fo­cuses on sub­jects like Bio­chem­istry, Plant and An­i­mal Biotech­nol­ogy, Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy, Molec­u­lar Bi­ol­ogy and Mi­cro­bial Ge­net­ics etc.

But the stu­dents are strug­gling to get a de­cent job in hand. A biotech grad­u­ate finds it very hard to get a job in QC (qual­ity con­trol) or R & D be­cause most com­pa­nies have small teams and there isn't much job hop­ping. What's more, phar­macy grad­u­ates are pre­ferred be­cause they can do for­mu­la­tion as well as QC.

A quick look at var­i­ous job sites would in­di­cate that open­ings for fresh Biotech grad­u­ates are few and far be­tween. An ex­cep­tion to all the above would be the hand­ful who com­plete a B.Tech from IIT or M.Sc. from IISc. The al­ter­nate op­tion af­ter grad­u­a­tion is to do a PhD, ei­ther in In­dia or abroad. How­ever, even af­ter a PhD, prospects in In­dia re­main lim­ited.

“At Amity, we un­der­stand this con­cern very well. We feel that it is nec­es­sary to see how the dif­fer­ent play­ers such as the in­dus­tries, univer­sity, so­ci­ety and govern­ment con­cerned with biotech­nol­ogy can act in uni­son and in a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial way. An in­te­grated ap­proach to the field of biotech­nol­ogy com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent sub­ject ar­eas is nec­es­sary and the courses and ap­proach should re­flect this”, shares Dr Suren­dra Kha­to­dia, As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor, Amity In­sti­tute of Biotech­nol­ogy, Haryana.

Univer­sity Busi­ness School (UBS), Pan­jab Univer­sity, had re­cently de­cided to dis­con­tinue Master of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion (MBA) in the biotech­nol­ogy course of­fered by in­sti­tute, stat­ing that it was un­vi­able. The course, which started with an in­take of 14 stu­dents, failed to evolve into what UBS en­vi­sioned. While it was ini­ti­ated with the hope that it would de­velop into a main­stream field in the coun­try, it found very few tak­ers in com­pa­nies.

Shar­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence Piu Ban­er­jee, a biotech­nol­ogy stu­dent from Shiv Nadar Univer­sity, said, “The lab­o­ra­to­ries are well equipped and the cur­ricu­lum is very flex­i­ble and stu­dent friendly. As far as the fu­ture as­pect of biotech is con­cerned, there is min­i­mal scope in In­dia since In­dia lacks re­search in­fra­struc­ture. One can opt for academia or sales and mar­ket­ing as a ca­reer op­tion af­ter com­plet­ing a masters in biotech­nol­ogy. For pur­su­ing a PhD, go­ing abroad is the best op­tion”.

Ca­reer coun­selors and those en­gaged in ed­u­ca­tional guid­ance are flooded with in­quiries about biotech­nol­ogy courses and their scope. It is ob­served, on the one hand, that the biotech­nol­ogy field is starved of tal­ent and, on the other hand, that there are sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges, pro­duc­ing large num­bers of un­em­ploy­able grad­u­ates. Some se­ri­ous think­ing needs to be done ur­gently to over­come this prob­lem.

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