SPARK to synergize science activity in India
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.