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Inter-ministerial MoU inked to enhance biotech industry in India

To promote biotechnology research and development in agriculture, the country’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The MoU will facilitate multi-disciplinary research and development activities and nurture innovations in biotechnology, agriculture, and education.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has been coordinating, guiding, and managing research and education in agriculture in the country.

The Department of Biotechnology Secretary said that both the organisations have initiated major facilities and technology platforms, which are accessible to national systems. She added that a joint working group will be constituted to take the partnership forward.

The collaboration will also promote agri-innovations and start-ups through India’s BIRAC mechanism.

The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council or BIRAC is a not-for-profit Public Sector Enterprise, established under the DBT as an interface agency. The BIRAC works to strengthen and empower emerging biotechnology enterprises to address nationally relevant product development needs.

According to the BIRAC website, the fundamental mandate for the BIRAC is to nurture and grow the growing biotechnology industry in India. The industry’s chief challenges are the intense capital and high-end infrastructure required from the start-up stage.

The biotech start-up scenario in India was transformed by one of BIRAC’s flagship scheme, the Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG). BIG has supported 140 entrepreneurial ideas over 5 calls at the pre-proof-of-concept stage.

Furthermore, through its various funding projects, the BIRAC has created 30 affordable and 27 early-stage technologies. These products and technologies are from biopharma, industrial biotech, medical devices and agribiotechnology. The Rotavac (Rotavirus vaccine) to immunise children against rotaviral diseases and the Maxio to help in tumour ablation are some of the technologies developed through the BIRAC funding.

Through the MoU, the two organisations will collaborate with one another in mutually agreed-upon research programmes in the areas of agricultural biotechnology. Together, they will fund projects and discuss policy issues, regulatory aspects, and other specified areas of national interest.

In a press release, the DBT said that the specific objectives are to collaboratively plan and implement major national programmes through joint funding and the sharing of resources.

Under the MoU, the agencies will form a think tank of experts to formulate policies for the development of India’s biotech industry.

The partnership will establish platforms and centres for services related to genomics, genotyping, data banking, agriculture bioinformatics, GM food detection, and the validity of technologies such as vaccines. Other areas include the diagnostics of veterinary and fisheries use and molecular markers in crop and animal breeding.

The DBT and the ICAR will also create and introduce courses and training programmes in the areas of biosafety, biodiversity conservation, germplasm exchange, genomic selection, and breeding.

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