Comparatively, bioscience sector in a good shape now: Dr Bhan

The former secretary of Department of Biotechnology, Dr Maharaj K Bhan is of the opinion that the Indian bioscience sector, from being obscure in the past to the present day global recognition, has come a long way in last three decades

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New Delhi: “Efficiency of regulations and pace of development will decide the process of producing quality biotech products from India,” mentioned Dr M K Bhan, Ex-Secretary, Department of Biotechnology while speaking at an event at New Delhi on 24th January.

Recalling the times when the mention of developing vaccines in India would attract looks of disbelief, Dr Bhan said that India has moved ahead of others in producing affordable vaccines for developing the world. “Comparatively, this sector is in a good shape now,” he added.

Speaking at a press briefing to mark the World Health Organization (WHO)’s prequalification approval to Bharat Biotech’s Rotavac vaccine, Dr Bhan mentioned, “Core funding for the development of ROTAVAC was received from the Gates Foundation, PATH and BIRAC- Department of Biotechnology Government of India, since the year 2000. Additional funding from agencies such as the Research Council of Norway, UK Department for International Development, have made this project a success.”

Important to mention here that it was Dr Bhan who had isolated the ROTAVAC 116E strain during his stint at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) which was later used to develop the vaccine. Speaking to the BioVoice News, Dr Bhan mentioned, “Had never thought it would become this big. It is the determination of those involved, their hard work and partnerships that made it possible.”

During his tenure as the Secretary of DBT, Dr M K Bhan had initiated a series of programmes and international partnerships that led to the establishment of many bio-clusters across India. Due to his efforts, the DBT too earned a reputation for being one of the efficient departments under union S&T ministry.

Talking about vaccines, Dr Bhan revealed that the cohorts are being built at the national institutes for vigorous research and development.

On Tuberculosis, he said that it does not have an animal model and budget is a constraint to conduct the human trials. “A couple of Tuberculosis vaccines look promising. Bharat Biotech has Chikungunya and NIH will take it up for further development,” he mentioned.

On Malaria, he said that it is an old battle where scientists have failed despite so many efforts. “That is enough reason for us to develop new tools. The goals of IITs and that of AIIMS need to be way higher,” he advised.

On government’s directive that asked the focus to be kept on cost-effective methods while doing R&D, he agreed on the cutting down on the wastage yet feels that the science is not up to the mark and requires drastic improvements.

Dr Bhan agrees with most of the critics on the funding. “Finance is indeed an issue. India needs to spend more on science,” he said. At the same time, Dr Bhan has an advice too. “Prevent whatever you can. Preventive healthcare would be the best in Indian conditions where there are financial constraints and huge population.”