Emergence of Biotechnology study in India & Top Biotech Institutions

A separate Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was finally set up in February, 1986 and the NBTB selected Dr S Ramachandran as the first Secretary of the department. The DBT constituted a ten member Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) with heads of various scientific agencies and a seven member Standing Advisory Committee for North America SAC (0) to ensure that the Department kept abreast of global developments in the field of Biotechnology. Space was allocated to a small team to sit in the now sprawling and modern CGO Complex, at Lodhi Road, New Delhi, to set up the DBT. According to Dr Ramachndran the Department started with a modest beginning of around Rs 4 to 6 crore as its first budget.

It was the efforts of Late Rajiv Gandhi which brought Biotechnology in India and since then ‘’We’’ Indians put every effort to make this sector shine globally. Today India is 12th world’s best biotech destination, now we have best research labs, best institutions, top scientists, top companies and most of all smooth regulations which makes India one of the top country in Biotechnology. We will see what are the facilities for academicians and students in India in this article. In the current scenario the line between Life Sciences, Biotechnology and BioSciences is becoming very thin and students, researchers and corporate are jumping into one another’s domain because of interdisciplinary nature of field. Thus now a Botanist or Zoologist also studies Biotechnology as a major subject and can dwell in to Biotechnology academia or industry. Not only this, from past examples we can see that not only Biologist but Chemists and Physicists have proved their significance in Biotechnology, So it will not be wise to restrict our discussion to Biotechnology only but we will see how the community can take benefit once they understand each and every resource.

Emergence of DBT – Introduction
The department of Biotechnology DBT was started in year 1986 and born a new era of development in the country however the seed was sown before a decade ago when Ministry of Education’s most pioneering effort was instrumental in the creation of Biochemical Engineering Research Centre at IIT Delhi with substantial assistance from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland to make available state-of-the-art infrastructure for education, training, and research in biochemical engineering and biotechnology in 1974.

DBT is the foremost agency to handle Biotechnology related activities in India. The other organizations are CSIR, ICMR, DRDO, ICAR but these organizations are interdisciplinary and share bioscience related activities with DBT on a large scale. Biotechnology has applications in many sectors and thus shares study, research and business curriculum with many other diverse interdisciplinary organizations. The main applications of Biotechnology are in
Industrial Enzymes and Chemicals

Thus DBT has need of sharing platform with diverse organization to bring out research and products that can revolutionize the life of people around the world.

The remarkable march of India into the world of biosciences and technological advances began in 1986. That year, the then Prime Minister of the country, late Rajiv Gandhi accepted the vision that unless India created a separate Department for Biotechnology, within the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, the country would not progress to the desired extent. This was because many of our macro-economic issues of growth were subsumed within that science’s development. That decision has made India one of the first countries to have a separate department for this stream of science and technology.

India’s Sixth Five Year Plan (1980-85) was the first policy document to cover biotechnology development in the country. The plan document proposed to strengthen and develop capabilities in areas such as immunology, genetics, communicable diseases, etc. In this context, referring to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the document suggested to ensure coordination on inter-institutional, inter-agency and on multi-disciplinary basis, full utilization of existing facilities and infrastructures in major areas including biotechnology. Programmes in the area of biotechnology included, tissue culture application for medicinal and economic plants, fermentation technology and enzyme engineering for chemicals, antibiotics and other medical product development; agricultural and forest residues and slaughterhouse wastes utilization and emerging areas like genetic engineering and molecular biology .

In 1982, after detailed deliberations with the scientific community, and on the basis of recommendations by the then Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet, a National Biotechnology Board (NBTB) was constituted by the Government to identify priority areas and evolve long term perspective for Biotechnology in India. It was also responsible for fostering programmes and strengthening indigenous capabilities in this newly emerging discipline. The NBTB was chaired by the formidable scientist Professor MGK Menon, the then Member (Science) of India’s Planning Commission and had representation of almost all the S&T agencies in the country viz. Department of Science and Technology (DST), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The NBTB issued the “Long Term Plan in Biotechnology for India” in April 1983. This document spelt out priorities for biotechnology in India in view of the national objectives such as self sufficiency in food, clothing and housing, adequate health and hygiene, provision of adequate energy and transportation, protection of environment, gainful employment, industrial growth and balance in international trade. Later in 1986, NBTB graduated to a full-fledged government department called Department of Biotechnology.

A separate Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was finally set up in February, 1986 and the NBTB selected Dr S Ramachandran as the first Secretary of the department. The DBT constituted a ten member Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) with heads of various scientific agencies and a seven member Standing Advisory Committee for North America SAC (0) to ensure that the Department kept abreast of global developments in the field of Biotechnology. Space was allocated to a small team to sit in the now sprawling and modern CGO Complex, at Lodhi Road, New Delhi, to set up the DBT. According to Dr Ramachndran the Department started with a modest beginning of around Rs 4 to 6 crore as its first budget. In those days in the country, not too many people were working on biosciences. The department had therefore to focus on

• Developing human resources
• Creation of appropriate infrastructure
• Research and development
• Creating a regulatory framework

At present in India, there are seven major agencies responsible for financing and supporting academics and research in the realm of biotechnology apart from other sciences and they have their own dedicated labs and departments for BioSciences. They are Department of Science and Technology (DST) was established in May 1971, with the objective of promoting new areas of Science & Technology and to play the role of a nodal department for organizing, coordinating and promoting S&T activities in the country.

Department of Biotechnology (DBT) is an Indian government department, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, responsible for administering development and commercialization in the field of modern biology and biotechnology at a number of centres of excellence in India, including university departments and CSIR institutes and laboratories. It has 15 laboratories in India.

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was established in 1942. It is India’s largest research and development organization. It has 40 laboratories and 80 field stations/extension centres spread over the length and breadth of the country. Strategic alliances would thus be sought for programmes for understanding the processes, molecular genetics and control of gene expression, genetic manipulation of microbes, recombinant DNA products, engineering new protein molecules/new chemical entities, development of immuno-diagnostics and biotechnology of prospective medicinal and aromatic plants.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Another major institution working in the area of biotechnology is the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) under the Ministry of Health. It is the apex body in the country to promote, coordinate and formulate biomedical and health research. ICMR is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world which was founded in 1911. The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. ICMR’s 26 National Institutes address themselves to research on specific health topics.

Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) In India, agricultural research is being spearheaded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under the Ministry of Agriculture. The Council is engaged in conducting research in the field of agriculture, soil and water conservation, animal husbandry, fisheries, dairying, forestry and also agricultural education. It has several research laboratories all over the country conducting research in biotechnology, besides using traditional breeding techniques for different research projects. ICAR has established a National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB) at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa, New Delhi, which is fully dedicated to work on plant biotechnology. ICAR is also implementing a World Bank supported programme called National Agriculture Technology Programme (NATP) through which huge allocations have been made at different research laboratories for strengthening infrastructure for biotechnological research.

University Grants Commission (UGC), The UGC was first formed in 1945 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and Delhi. Its responsibility was extended in 1947 to cover all Indian universities. The University Grants Commission is a statutory organization established by an Act of Parliament in 1956 for the coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of university education. Total No. of Universities in the Country as on 12.04.2018 are 850 including Central Universities, State Universities, Deemed to be Universities and Private Universities.

Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) is a department of the Ministry of Science & Technology. The DSIR Programs have been catering to all aspects concerned with the transformation of an innovation from mind to market, e.g. it has been assisting entrepreneurs with innovative ideas towards setting up potentially successful knowledge based companies, supporting up-scaling of technologies at the proof-of-concept stage up to pre-commercialization and also providing support for the marketing of such technologies for commercial applications.

DST, DBT and DSIR are part of Ministry of Science and Technology while ICMR is with Ministry of Health, ICAR with Ministry of Agriculture and UGC with Ministry of Human Resource and Development. DSIR is the funding agency for CSIR and both of them independently fund biotechnology related research programmes.

Recent advances in Biotech in India
Since the time of establishment, in 1986, the allocation for the Department has increased manifold. The budgetary allocations have gone up from Rs. 23 crore in 1986-87 to Rs.1426.92 crore in 2011. Department of Biotechnology was allocated an Amount of Rs.1820.00 Crore for the year 2016-17. This was revised to Rs. 1917.23 Crore (Rs.1895.20 Crore under plan and Rs. 22.03 Crore under Non-plan).

The Indian government has laid down a decent regulatory framework to approve GM crops and r-DNA products for human health. A proactive government policy allows stem cell research in the country while having in place sound ethical guidelines. The product patent regime which has come into force since the year 2005 and resulted in giving a message to the world as well as Indian Industry that India supports world regulatory framework and rewards new research and initiatives.

ICGEB was created and developed as a special UNIDO programme under the direction of Arturo Falaschi, on February 3, 1994, and soon the ICGEB acquired the status of Autonomous International Organisation. ICGEB provides a scientific and educational environment of the highest standard and conducts innovative research in life sciences for the benefit of developing countries. It strengthens the research capability of its Members through training and funding programmes and advisory services and represents a comprehensive approach to promoting biotechnology internationally. The Centre, currently under the direction of Mauro Giacca, has three Components: Trieste, Italy, New Delhi, India and Cape Town, South Africa and comprises a network of 40 Affiliated Centres (national laboratories located in developing countries).

The Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance was officially launched on 9 September 2008 and registered as a charitable trust in India. The Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance is an £160 million initiative funded equally by the Wellcome Trust, UK and Department of Biotechnology, India.

AIST and DBT have concluded a comprehensive memorandum of understanding on comprehensive research cooperation (MoU) on February 12, 2007. President Chubachi and Secretary VijayRaghavan signed the joint research contract and the opening ceremony was held on October 3, 2013, at AIST Tsukuba.

The Parliament passed ‘’The Regional Centre for Biotechnology Bill, 2016’’. The Bill establishes Regional Centre for Biotechnology, an institution of education, training and research, under the auspices of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the National Capital Region and declares it as an institution of national importance.

In December 2015, the Department of Biotechnology launched the National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015–2020 programme. The stated aim of the programme is to intensify research in the fields of vaccines, humane genome, infectious and chronic diseases, crop science, animal agriculture and aqua culture, food and nutrition, environmental management and technologies for clean energy.

Apart from institutional set up of DBT Biotech Science Clusters and Biotech Parks are also supported by DBT for multi scale basic and applied research in Biological Sciences.

Development of Academic Infrastructure
The first autonomous institute of DBT, the National Institute of Immunology which was set up in 1981 was brought under the wings of DBT. Soon after, it was joined by the National Facility for Animal Tissue and Cell Culture, Pune formed in 1986 which was later christened the National Centre for Cell Science.

The late 1990s and early 2000 saw many other institutes like The National Institute for Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) followed, the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting & Diagnostics, Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development and the Institute of Life Sciences take shape. Subsequently, several other prominent institutes like Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (INstem), National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) at Mohali, and National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) at Kalyani in West Bengal were established.

The DBT has established a huge infrastructure for study and research in India. The DBT has 31 task forces in different areas of importance each comprising 12-13 experts who help in recommending and monitoring of R&D projects.

Keeping in mind the demand for trained manpower, the programmes have been expanded in general biotechnology as well as area specific expansion in medical, agricultural, marine, veterinary, industrial biotechnology, computational biology to cover 63 universities. To ensure admission of quality students, selection is made through All India common entrance test conducted by JNU or JAM joint entrance test conducted by IIT and all India test conducted by other universities. Students of DBT supported programmes have consistently performed well at the national level competitive exams for research fellowships conducted by CSIR, UGC, DBT, DAE, and ICMR.

Department of Biotechnology is supporting Biotech Industrial Training Programme (BITP) for providing hands-on training for six months to fresh B.E./B.Tech./M.Sc./ M.Tech. students in biotechnology. The programme is being implemented through Biotech Consortium India Ltd., New Delhi. BITP provides industryspecific training to Biotech students for skill development and enhancing their job opportunities in biotech industries. Around 125 companies are involved in imparting training. This programme has completed 28 years and is very popular among biotech students as is evident from number of applications received.

Star College Scheme was conceived by the Department in the year 2008 with an aim to nurture excellence in undergraduate science education at across the country, the primary focus was to strengthen the under-graduate science departments by providing academic and physical infrastructure to the colleges, imparting hands-on training to UG students, promoting faculty improvement programme, networking with neighbouring colleges and institutions, providing better library facilities, motivating students towards research and even encouraging out-reach activities for teachers, students from neighbouring schools & colleges. There are currently 101 ongoing Colleges and support to 10 colleges has been discontinued on successful completion of one tenure after review during 2015-16. Participating departments in 19 colleges have been accorded Star Status.

Biotech Industry
This issue is dedicated to academics but for just information, Biotechnology industry has fully fledged supply chain from production to domestic consumption and exports. The India and Indians have become choice of doing business globally.

Biotech Study in India
The National Biotechnology Board had launched an integrated short-term training programme way back in 1984, to cope up with growing demand for highly trained manpower. In the first phase (1984-85), 5 universities were selected for initiating M.Sc./M.Tech programme in this multi-disciplinary area. Subsequently, in 1985-86 and 1986-87, the DBT has added 8 universities/institutions for M.Sc/M.Tech/Post-doctoral teaching programmes. Subsequently, DBT was entrusted with the responsibility of evolving curriculum for biotechnology courses and meet the demand for human resources in the field of biotechnology. In 1986-87 a model system of post-graduate/post-doctoral teaching in biotechnology in 7 universities/institutions was launched12. Some of the specialised M.Sc. courses in marine and agricultural biotechnology were launched in 1988-89 at 3 universities. In 1992-93, DBT supported a five year Integrated Programme in biochemical engineering and biotechnology in Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and a post-doctoral programme at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. DBT is supporting 20 M.Sc. courses in general biotechnology, 4 in agricultural biotechnology, one each in medical and marine biotechnology while couple of diploma courses in molecular and biochemical technology.

DBT is also supporting overseas associateship and short-term training courses for at least 22-25 scientists in a particular year for exposing Indian scientists to newer trends in R&D.

Apart from expanding teaching of biotechnology at higher educational institutions a separate module on biotechnology would also be integrated with the school curriculum. The Department of Biotechnology of Government of India will provide the necessary outline of this module so that the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) and the Boards of School Education would be accordingly advised.

Indian University Grants Commission has come out with a scheme to promote higher centres of learning at one place and assist them as much as possible. In this regard, Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been identified by the UGC as centre for excellence in the areas of genomics, genetics and biotechnology. To sum up there are almost 63 universities offering Masters of Science in Biotechnology through a joint entrance examination being conducted by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Apart from this Goa University is offering a two years Master of Science course in Marine Biotechnology, while All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) offers a similar course in medical biotechnology. There are a couple of institutions offering Post Graduate Diploma Courses in molecular and biochemical technology. Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at New Delhi and Kharagpur offer a Five Year integrated course in biochemical engineering and biotechnology. There is a Post MD/MS Certificate Course in medical biotechnology being offered by Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh and Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Lucknow.

Pitfalls in Biotech or Life Science education
Beginning in the mid-1980s, teaching programmes in biotechnology, initially at the Master’s level, were started in India with great hopes of preparing adequately trained human resource which can effectively make use of the newly emerging power of molecular biology and genetic engineering. Anticipating a significant expansion of biotech industry, there has been an unrestrained rush to learn/teach biotechnology, even at under-graduate and school levels. This has diverted both the younger minds and resources to the newly established departments of biotechnology in various universities and colleges across the country at the expense of the existing departments of zoology/botany/ microbiology/biochemistry, etc. Innumerable private and public institutions joined the band-wagon, resulting in mushrooming of biotechnology courses in every city and small town of the country.

Biotechnology and genetic engineering are essentially laboratory based subjects and thus require extensive laboratory facilities for the students to learn and have hands-on training in different techniques. A majority of the innumerable colleges and university departments offering such courses have no laboratory facilities worth the name. Most of them have ‘invented’ a clever strategy which requires the hapless students to seek a place in other institution somewhere in the country (or even outside) to undertake a ‘research project’ lasting for 2-6 months. The institutions where the students are enrolled do not provide any laboratory training, notwithstanding the fact that they collect substantial amounts as fees. On the other hand, the laboratory where the student undertakes the project is expected to foot the bill for the student’s ‘research training’. The plight of students who are required to undertake research projects outside the parent institution is no better than a ‘beggar’ on the street.

Given the enormously large numbers of students ‘begging’ for projects across the country, quality of the research projects and their reports remains as bad as the quality of teaching in general. However, such ‘self-financing’ or ‘special courses’ continue to be very lucrative business propositions for earning money on part of those who make education a business.

Perks for bright students – How students find opportunity during/after studies

The battle starts when your name does not appear on the list of NEET qualified students, because of hype of Biotechnology then comes BSc Biotech or allied sience course. Majority of BSc students comes from private colleges and universities. As said by Prof Lakhotia these colleges do not have proper infrastructure to prepare students, these students can become susceptible to dilemma. The students who even after having weak basics wants to go ahead then he or she needs a teacher who can prepare them to take fellowship exams and there comes coaching business into picture some of which alone produces more results than any combined entrance tests’ total seats. We will discuss about this in separate article Private Coachings : Why they exists?

Then comes MSc, but this is also a phase of dilemma for students and many of them pack their bags for MBA or any other course. But if an accident happens and you choose MSc, then PhD and Post doc becomes necessary to get a good position in either academics or Industry.

JNU-CEEB MSc entrance is single largest examination in India which includes largest number of universities under single umbrella for Msc admissions. JNU conducts an annual test to take admissions in itself and associated universities. If you find a place in these universities then you can find a place in future because these universities have all the resources like books, labs, faculties, all in all good infrastructure. If you study hard you can earn a MSc Fellowship in top 100 institutions in India which includes fee waiver and/or monthly stipend and/or hostel facility.

During or after MSc you need to clear any JRF available in India or any foreighn university entrance to study abroad. Here the competition is tough and only those get selected who do the best. Institution’s role at this stage is also very crucial as different universities offer different syllabus based on which becomes syllabus of DBT/CSIR/ICMR/DRDO. DBT, DST, ICMR, ICAR, ARS-NET all give fellowships to pursue research through PhD in Life Science, Biotechnology or allied sciences.
Entrance tests during and after MSc are basically JRFs and then SRFs which is not low in expenses as compared to recent past.

During PhD or PDF publishing Research papers in peer reiew international journals of good impact factor becomes necessary and thus only those who have some good publications finds a place in University and/or Research Labs.

Top Institutions for Biotech study

I have not prepared any ranking of University but the general order of their positions is as follows
DBT /CSIR/ ICMR /DRDO/ICAR Labs – Autonomous institutes of MHRD like AIIMS, IISERs and IITs – Autonomous Institute of UGC – Central Universities – State Universities=Deemed private Universities- colleges

Some of the institute which offers Bioscience Biotech or Life science courses can be seen online in our list of institutions. (complete list available on http://kashbiotech.com/indian-biotech-database/ibud1/),

Private players in Biotech Education
Again this is not a ranking but among popular universities comes the name of
1. Amity
2. Shivnadar
3. Jaypee University of Information Technology,
4. Manipal University
5. Bharati Vidyapeeth University
6. Dr. D Y Patil University
7. Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani
8. Amrita University
9. SRM University
10. Sharda University

Future plans of DBT to strengthen Biotech Education
According to recent reports, The Department of Biotechnology has taken bold initiatives on the establishment of the state-of-art institute Neel: Institute of Ocean Biology. This has been a major lead in national programme of marine sciences and also promotion of India’s Ocean biology research and biotechnology globally. Neel will have laboratories in a hub-and spoke model, with the hub in Goa and spokes from the Andaman to Lakshadweep, covering coastal India from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh to Gujarat. The institute will be set up with in partnership with Ministry of Earth Sciences and with the technical collaboration of CNRS, UPMC and French Marine Research Labs.

From the facts it is evident that Biotechnology has made strong roots in Indian culture and prospering further. Like before we now also have great leaders who are looking at biotechnology very seriously giving its benefits to society and economy. In India most biotechnology companies earn profit through 3 subsectors viz. Pharma, Agri and consumables. Pharma is 70%, Agribiotech is facing challenges for GMO crops like BT Mustard but non-food crops earning profits and consumables which has vast applications in bioscience industry, research and academia.

In this way students have to take greater precautions to understand the career prospects in this field. Role of institution in this regard becomes very important and India has institutions that produces great scientific talents who do breakthrough research all around the world. Deserving students can find good places to learn and earn either in public or private institutions but the decision process should consider the facts and just not big announcements.

India is 12th in best Biotech destination all around the world and is a house of companies like Bharat Biotech which produces largest number of vaccines in world. In India there is no dearth of academic and research infrastructure, also there is no shortage of production. India has DBT, CSIR, ICMR,ICAR, DRDO with their labs which now recogized as world class facilities for Bioscience research and pilot studies.