SPARK to syn­er­gize sci­ence ac­tiv­ity in In­dia

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

To take early stage suc­cesses to com­mer­cial­iza­tion, the gov­ern­ment of In­dia pro­poses SPARK (Sus­tain­able Progress through Ap­pli­ca­tion of Re­search and Knowl­edge)

pro­gramme to ini­ti­ate the syn­er­giz­ing of sci­ence ac­tiv­ity in In­dia.

The past few years have been transformational for the In­dian biotech and medtech startup ecosys­tem. In­dia now stands at a thresh­old of ex­plo­sion with more than 500 ven­tures pas­sion­ately ad­vanc­ing in­no­va­tion to mar­kets. How­ever, a sig­nif­i­cant con­tin­u­ing im­ped­i­ment is the reg­u­la­tory head­winds and time­line in ac­cess­ing raw ma­te­ri­als, get­ting timely prod­uct ap­provals and pen­e­trat­ing mar­kets.

Within the sub­set of star­tups that are pur­su­ing more com­plex and glob­ally bench­mark­able in­no­va­tion, there are ven­tures en­gaged in ther­a­peu­tics for rare dis­eases, next gen­er­a­tion so­lu­tions such as gene ther­apy and emerg­ing ar­eas of re­gen­er­a­tive medicine. While In­dia does have a guide­line for stem cell ther­a­pies, there is sig­nif­i­cant gap in the over­all land­scape of pos­si­bil­i­ties un­der re­gen­er­a­tive medicine as well as gene ther­apy.

The Ban­ga­lore Bioin­no­va­tion Cen­tre (BBC), an ini­tia­tive of Kar­nataka Biotech­nol­ogy and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Ser­vices (KBITS), De­part­ment of IT, BT and S&T, Gov­ern­ment of Kar­nataka with a lib­eral fund­ing sup­port from De­part­ment of Biotech­nol­ogy (DBT), Gov­ern­ment of In­dia, had or­ga­nized a meet­ing with a num­ber of biotech en­trepreneurs. The high­light of the ses­sion was an elab­o­rate in­ter­ac­tion with Prof K Vi­jayRagha­van, Prin­ci­pal Sci­en­tific Ad­vi­sor (PSA) to the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia.

The event was also at­tended by Dr Raja M, CEO, Geno­typic Tech­nol­ogy, Dr Sudha Rao, CEO, Dhiti Omics, Dr S Chan­drashekran, MD, GeNei, Dr Ja­gadish Mit­tur, Prin­ci­pal Con­sul­tant- Biotech­nol­ogy, Kar­nataka Biotech­nol­ogy and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Ser­vices (KBITS), Dr Anil R Chauhan, Sr. Ad­vi­sor Gov­ern­ment re­la­tions, As­so­ci­a­tion of Biotech­nol­ogy Led En­ter­prises (ABLE).

Ad­dress­ing the ma­jor con­cern of biotech en­trepreneurs Prof Vi­jayRagha­van said, “MedTech reg­u­la­tions now are tech­ni­cally with the Drug Con­troller, for some com­plex sort of rea­sons. If some tech­nol­ogy is clas­si­fied equiv­a­lent to a drug, then the Drug Con­troller reg­u­lates it. But MedTech is sup­posed to be un­der the pharma min­istry, in terms of pro­mo­tional medtech. It is funded by DBT, De­part­ment of Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy (DST) and In­dian Coun­cil of Med­i­cal Re­search (ICMR). So, over­all it has ac­tu­ally be­come a zoo. Yes, the reg­u­la­tory as­pect is com­pletely un­clear. We have re­cently had a meet­ing in or­der to re­solve this reg­u­la­tory is­sue, and I am sure things will fall into place very soon. This is ap­pli­ca­ble not only for the medtech sec­tor but for other sec­tors as well. The gov­ern­ment needs to be pushed and part­nered with to get clar­ity on the reg­u­la­tory pipe­line. Things are much more sorted at the reg­u­la­tory end with the en­gi­neer­ing based star­tups on the other hand. So we need to set up groups and move in the right di­rec­tion in or­der to get more clar­ity on the reg­u­la­tory as­pects”.

Dur­ing the ses­sion, he also elab­o­rated upon the fund­ing is­sues biotech star­tups usu­ally face. As dis­cussed in our pre­vi­ous edi­tion, avail­abil­ity of eq­uity fund­ing is com­par­a­tively eas­ier for med­i­cal de­vices and di­ag­nos­tics ven­tures while drug dis­cov­ery ven­tures have greater hard­ships find­ing first two rounds of eq­uity cap­i­tal with the ap­pro­pri­ate risk pro­file.

“The SPARK (Sus­tain­able Progress through Ap­pli­ca­tion of Re­search and Knowl­edge) pro­gramme has been pro­posed to ini­ti­ate the syn­er­giz­ing of sci­ence ac­tiv­ity in In­dia. Un­der this pro­gramme, we are form­ing a com­mit­tee chaired by me and the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary, to take early stage suc­cesses to com­mer­cial­iza­tion. We in­tend to list the whole set of early suc­cesses and in each case con­nect them with po­ten­tial in­vestors. We plan to pick all suc­cess­ful star­tups for na­tional lab­o­ra­to­ries, in­cu­ba­tors and as­so­ciate them with a group of peo­ple to help pre­pare their dossier. The group will point out the strengths and weak­nesses of each startup and help them in moving ahead. So ac­cord­ingly we will help the star­tups to shop around for the po­ten­tial in­vestors. We are try­ing to pre­pare a struc­ture through SPARK in or­der to help the star­tups. In line with this, we are work­ing with In­vest In­dia, a non-profit ven­ture set up un­der the De­part­ment of In­dus­trial Pol­icy and Pro­mo­tion, Min­istry of Com­merce and In­dus­tries, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia”, shared Prof K Vi­jayRagha­van.

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