India’s Bio-Based Economy

In the past 8 years, India’s BioEconomy has grown almost tenfold and currently stands at US $ 80 Bn. In the next 8 years, it is expected to nearly quadruple and reach US$ 300 Bn. Stretching over crucial sectors like pharmaceuticals, agriculture, bio-industry, bio-IT, and bio-services, India’s biotechnology industry holds the potential to revolutionize the country’s economy and is rightly regarded as ‘India’s Sunrise Sector’. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a major boost to India’s BioEconomy and has placed the country as a leading destination for R&D and manufacturing. Having spent more than US$ 1 Bn on R&D in 2021, India has led the fight against COVID-19 on the forefront. India has made a remarkable progress in creating a conductive environment for innovation in the biotechnology industry, housing more than 5300 biotech startups in the country as in 2022.

With the highest number of United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved manufacturing plants outside the USA, Indian pharmaceuticals are attracting a higher acceptance rate around the world. This popularity is due to India’s capabilities of providing affordable access to innovative and inclusive healthcare solutions with an efficacy of globally competitive medical products. India is already the largest manufacturer of Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus (DPT), Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), and measles vaccines globally, and the industry reached a new benchmark by launching the world’s first DNA vaccine, ZyCOV-D, against COVID-19 in 2021. Recently, India has indigenously developed the cheapest quadrivalent HPV vaccine against cervical cancer. These developments rightly indicate why India has been termed as the ‘Pharmacy of the World’.

India has demonstrated its R&D prowess at its fullest in the past few years, and top companies around the world are now looking at India for providing essential bio-services. Currently the 7th largest destination for clinical trials, India holds the proficiency to become a global Clinical Trials hub. To further strengthen this ideology, initiatives such as the National BioPharma Mission support the establishment of clinical trial networks (CTN) for the enhancement of the clinical trial capacities in the country.

India’s IT sector is thriving at its zenith, which is setting up the base for an equally strong bio-IT sector. Currently at a nascent stage, Government of India (GoI) has launched multiple efforts to enhance this key subsegment of the industry. For example, to better understand the Indian population, the Genome India project has been launched for whole genome sequencing of representative Indian population across various regions.

To bring about positive contributions in broader domains of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as defined by the United Nations, India aims to lead transformations in agriculture and industry. This ideology can provide opportunities for the Indian businesses to continue their growth trajectory without creating undue stress on the present resource supply. The industrial and agriculture applications of biotechnology reduce dependency on fossil-based materials and energy, promoting sustainable management of resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A very prominent example of extensively using allied side streams could be the National Biofuel Policy, targeting a 20% ethanol blend in petrol by 2025 and D5 diesel by 2030, which can significantly reduce India’s dependency on fossil fuels’ import, paving the way for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. With nearly 55% of Indian terrain under agriculture and allied activities, use of biopesticides, biofertilisers and biostimulants in agriculture further enhance the approach of reusing, reducing, and recycling of the waste, promoting sustainable agriculture practices.

With the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s announcement of making India a US$ 100 Billion Bio-Manufacturing hub by 2025, the juggernaut of India’s biotech sector is monumentally working towards realizing this goal. With major initiatives by GoI towards capacity building, infrastructure development, and policy development and improvement, India is prospering towards the creation of a robust bioeconomic foothold in the world.