TechSprouts is a platform to engage with the deep science ecosystem in India

TechSprouts Newsletter: January 2024

Indian biomanufacturing, quantum thematic hubs and more

Deep science funding updates

  • Indra Water, a modular microelectrolysis-based water treatment system provider, raised a $4M Series A round from Emerald VC, Mela Ventures and Peak Sustainability Ventures.
  • Developer of diagnostic and therapeutic solutions for inborn diseases, Vgenomics, raised an undisclosed seed round from Mumbai Angels and O2 Angels.
  • Cellogen Therapeutics, which develops CAR-T cell-based therapies for the treatment of cancer and metabolic diseases, raised a $1.93M seed round from Natco Pharma.

Deep science ecosystem updates

  • The fifth Regional Young Investigators’ Meeting (RYIM) 2023-24 took place at BITS, Pilani based on the Life Sciences and Interdisciplinary Research theme.
  • ISRO’s innovative space platform, POEM-3, successfully achieved all payload objectives by the end of January.
  • I-STEM (Indian Science, Technology, and Engineering facilities Map), an initiative of the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor, has launched the Samavesha project at IISc to enhance researchers’ accessibility to facilities and laboratories.

News from the research community

  • Researchers at IIT Jodhpur have identified the unique activity of a host defence protein, β2-microglobulin, that has potential for developing diagnostics and therapeutics for Parkinson’s disease.
  • A brainstorming session was held for pre-proposals to set up Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs) under the National Quantum Mission (NQM), which brought together quantum science researchers and quantum technologists from all over India.
  • The 42nd meeting of the Astronomical Society of India was held in Bangalore from January 30th onwards, with discourse focusing on the sun, planets and black holes.

Deep Science Thoughts

Biomanufacturing in India

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman in her interim budget 2024 speech announced a new scheme around setting up extensive biomanufacturing and biofoundry in India. This was along with a Rs One Lakh Crore outlay to promote innovation in sunrise technology sectors and a deeptech startups focused scheme for the defense sector. The goal of the biomanufacturing initiative will be to support the local production of biopolymers and bioplastics, bio-agri-inputs, and bio-pharmaceuticals.

Indian bioeconomy was valued at $137.2 billion in 2022 as per the BIRAC’s India Bioeconomy Report ,2023, an 13X increase since 2014. Close to 80% of the value was generated by the biopharma (vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics) and bioindustrial (enzymes and biofuels) sectors. While these are impressive figures, there is a need to significantly boost investments in the sector to meet the target of $300 billion by 2030 and be among the top 5 bio-manufacturing hubs in the world.

Biomanufacturing will also play a key role in achieving the net zero targets by 2070. This will require a shift from fossil fuel based chemical production methods, especially for industrial products such as polymers, plastics, agri-inputs and many more. One of the key challenges in the industry today is the non-availability of adequate infrastructure for scaling up the production of novel products such as biopolymers and bio-agri-inputs. Startups and MSMEs often struggle to meet their need for GMP Pilot Plant & scale-up facilities. The Karnataka government in December 2023 announced plans to address this in their draft Biotechnology Policy 4.0. The government has proposed to develop High-Tech Biotech Clusters (5 – 10 acres) where the larger industry players would be encouraged to set-up their manufacturing units and support startups and SMEs with easy to use facilities. Biofoundries will also be set up through private-public partnerships. There are provisions to subsidize setting up the biomanufacturing facilities, equipment purchases for R&D and reimbursement of lease/rental agreements.

Private companies such as Rx Propellent are also setting up life sciences and biotechnology labs and manufacturing facilities to accelerate the growth of the biotechnology industry.

We have seen the growth of the biotechnology industry in the country up close through our investments into startups such as String Bio, DNome, Myoworks. One of the key steps in de-risking their journeys has been the ability to validate their technology at the pilot scale and generate third party data. We believe a concerted focus and effort towards setting up a robust bio-manufacturing capability will go a long way in scaling biotechnology startups.

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TechSprouts is a platform to engage with the deep science ecosystem in India