Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A booster for biotechnology

A booster for biotechnology
Three MNCs primed to land here
The Times of India

Bangalore: The IT capital is making deeper inroads into the biotech (BT) world. Three more BT multinationals are firming up plans to set up operations here.

Pall Corporation, Fischer Scientific International Inc and SLWk, a leading US law firm specialising in biotech intellectual property (IP) audits, as well as a slew of mid-tier firms are in discussions with the Karnataka government to set up facilities.

The life sciences division of the US-based $1.6-billion Pall Corp is the world leader in the diverse filtration, separation and purification techniques. Fisher Scientific provides the chemicals and equipment cell culture supplies and protein assay kits, reagents as well as a full line of genomic tools for studying gene function and regulation including sequencing, gene cloning and expression which meet the needs for a BT scientist.

Law firms like SLWk & Associates also have found India attractive, especially after the country amended the Patents Act to provide for greater protection of patents.

Says Vincent Nishchith, executive officer (biotech), Karnataka Biotechnology and Information Technology Services, “Providing infrastructure alone is not enough. We should have companies who would provide services and raw materials required for clinical research and trials.”

The Bangalore biotech park will have an incubation and instrumentation centre that will be useful for researchers to validate tests.

Says Shankarlinge Gowda, Karnataka IT secretary, “Now, smaller Indian firms would be able to work on custom synthesis for global BT firms. For instance, if a US firm wants to design a new molecule for initial research, it would prefer to do it in India.”

Bangalore Helix ready to take off

Bangalore: The Bangalore biotech park, Bangalore Helix, will go on floor by mid-August. Three firms have been short listed for executing the project, and in another 15 days time, we will know who among the three would clinch the deal.

According to state government sources, tenders will be served up shortly, and technical and financial bids will be called for. It is learnt that the shortlisted companies are all high profile ones, with a strong Bangalore base.

The state government has acquired 104 acres of land at Electronic City phase III, where some of the best biotech companies in India and abroad are expected to be located. The park will also house the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB).

The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 18 months but since the venture has already been delayed, the government wants to speed up the process.

IT&BT secretary (Karnataka) Shanakaralinge Gowda says the project could now be wrapped up in 12 months’ time. “We are determined to execute it well ahead of time,” he says.

The Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) has transferred the land for the project and the Department of IT&BT has formally taken possession of the land. The architect consultant for the park is Jurong Consultants India.

Rao Munukutla, Jurong CEO, said the masterplan for the project was complete and the design for the first few buildings have been finalised.

The biotech park attracted controversy initially. The original proposed location — University of Agricultural Sciences, near Hebbal — fizzled out, with students and others mounting pressure on leaving the campus alone. Subsequently, the Electronic City plot was finalised.

The park is expected to have world class R&D facilities, and plug and play amenities for cutting edge life sciences research. It will comprise a R&D centre, park management block, biotech incubation and common facilities centre, a biotechnology industries cluster, with a common effluent treatment plant.

The Central department of biotechnology has released Rs 14.5 crore for the common instrumentation centre and biotech incubation facility. The state has released an additional amount of Rs 10 crore.


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