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9-Misc: Indian Vision Document on Biotechnology

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TITLE:  Vision Document on biotechnology
SOURCE: Current Science, India, Vol. 81(10), p. 1157, by Nirupa Sen
DATE:   November 10, 2001

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Vision Document on biotechnology

The Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee released the document 
'Biotechnology - A vision', on 7 September 2001 at New Delhi. The document 
contains a ten-year perspective of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), 
Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. Vajpayee, on this 
occasion said that hopes had been pinned on new biotechnological products 
increasing agricultural production, fighting disease, combating nutritional 
deficiencies and protecting our environment.

Some of the milestones laid out in the Vision Document are as follows:

Basic research in modern biology and biotechnology would henceforth be 
driven by time and utility. Garnering long-term support are stem cell 
research, and tissue engineering for the development of biological 
substitutes, and metabolic engineering that uses recombinant DNA technology 
for enhancing potential of organisms, producing antibiotics. Support will 
also be provided for micro-assay systems, design of biosensors used in 
applications such as detection of antigen/ antibodies in body fluids and 
monitoring food additives. Research into developing therapeutics from small 
peptides/proteins and carbohydrates found in animals/ humans will also be 
given support, as also research into enzyme-mediated synthesis of drugs, 
processes in pollution control and for bioinstrumentation. ‘GenNet India’ 
for assisting study of genetic disorders in the country will be 
established. Research on pathogenic organisms and parasites relevant to 
India would be encouraged.

Strengthening the bioinformatics network in the country would be completed 
by 2005. Dedicated network centres involved in ‘developing data warehouses, 
data design and data mining from single and multiple databases and mirror 
sites, to decipher the international data available in the public domain 
and to correlate them to the function of individual sequences’ will be set 
up. Partnership with software companies would be encouraged. This 
partnership would help in the understanding of the genetic basis of 
diseases, by aiding identification of useful genes and correlating 
available epidemiological data for locating missing links.

In agriculture, a complete field assessment of large-scale seed production 
of transgenics, for enhancing the nutritional content of major crops and 
vegetables would be undertaken by 2005. In a couple of years, farmers are 
likely to be able to grow transgenic wheat with improved protein and lysine 
content, through marker-assisted breeding programmes. Edible vaccines for 
combating diseases like cholera, rabies and hepatitis B are expected to be 
ready for clinical trials in 2–3 years. For improving crop yields, 
biofertilizers and botanical biopesticides would be field-tested. In the 
Tenth Plan period, there would be emphasis on development of crops as 
sources of biofuel.

Encouragement will be given for studies on diseases affecting livestock, 
domestic animals and marine resources leading to vaccines, diagnostic kits 
and establishment of cell lines. Mouse genetics and mouse as a model in 
study of human genetics will receive support. Marine resources will be 
tapped for conversion into useful products. An environmental action plan is 
also envisaged for the protection of important ecosystems such as coastal 
belts and mangroves. A systematic documentation of biodiversity in the 
country would get underway.

Medical biotechnological products like diagnostic kits for major infectious 
diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), malaria, HIV/AIDS, dengue, hepatitis, 
etc. are all set to hit the market next year. Target dates have been set by 
DBT for the following. In 2–3 years, DNA vaccines for rabies in dogs would 
be ready for manufacture. Gene therapy trials against cancer would be 
initiated in 2001–2002. Rotoviral diarrhoea vaccine would enter Phase I 
trial in 2001 and is expected to obtain approval in 2 years. A vaccine for 
hepatitis-C would enter Phase I clinical trials by 2003. By 2004–2005, the 
cholera vaccine would complete its trial and by that time vaccines for HIV/
AIDS, TB and malaria are expected to enter Phase I and Phase II trials. 
Also, manufacturing units for recombinant biologicals, DNA chips and 
related materials would be set-up in the next five years. A molecular 
medicine approach would be adopted for research in cancer and 
cardiovascular diseases. Support is also promised for neurosciences and 
neuroinformatics, a discipline new to India.

There would be an increased accent on private–public partnership for 
bringing research products into the market place. A single-window facility 
is mooted for speeding up the process in obtaining clearances for 
biotechnology products. Vital policy matters in the realm of Intellectual 
Property Rights (IPR), patenting and ethical issues in biotechnology will 
get due attention. Guideline procedures for clinical trials, genetically 
modified foods and recombinant vaccines would be implemented.

In human resource development, central to achieving the goals set, the DBT 
proposes to train at least fifty teachers and about hundred students on a 
yearly basis. This would result in the country having a substantial number 
of trained personnel to carry out India’s aspirations in biotechnology. 
Finally, necessary steps would be taken for a better public understanding 
of biotechnology research.

Nirupa Sen, 1333, Poorvanchal Complex, JNU New Campus, New Delhi 110 067, 
India (e-mail:


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