The biotech warriors

Much like the well-documented startup in the IT sector, the students of biotechnology are becoming confident about starting their own ventures, be it in the form of a product or service

Published: 06th September 2017 10:52 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th September 2017 07:21 AM   |  A+A-

Young biotechnology entrepreneurs at the Trivandrum Biotechnology Industries Conclave 2017  Manu R Mavelil

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:   Startup culture in bio-technology sector is slowly shaping up in the state.  Gone are the days when the students limited their interest to academia. Much like the well-documented startup in the IT sector, the students of biotechnology are becoming confident about starting their own ventures, be it in the form of a product or service. Like in the case of IT most of the startup ideas are being generated on the campuses.

Though the state is lagging behind others in terms of promoting biotechnology companies, the infrastructure and the much needed mentoring can catapult its position considering the quality of human talent available, here. The state has the quality infrastructure in the form of Biotechnology Park at Kalamasserry and the Life Science Park at Thonnakkal. ‘Trivandrum Biotechnology Industries Conclave 2017’ organised by Kerala Biotechnology Commission (KBC) gave a glimpse of startup climate prevailing in the state. 

Polyskin Life Sciences Pvt Ltd
The start-up makes a polymer based bandage for healing wounds. It is bio- degradable hence there is no need to remove it. Such bandages are useful in healing burn injuries. The company was started at Bio 360 Life Sciences Park at Thonnakkal in 2008. “We have incorporated skin cells in a bandage and when applied over wounds we get a bioengineered skin. Apart from burn wounds, the bandages are useful for healing diabetic wounds. The product is at a clinical trial stage at Medical college hospital.” said senior scientist, R S Santosh. The company plans to develop plant based drugs. It runs SCRM Wound Care Clinic near MCH here.
Kerala University Technology and Business Start-up-Centre
Three Ph.D. students- Dhanya Lekshmi C S, Sherley K Thomas, Roshin Elizabeth George- of Kerala University. They plan to provide various high tech lab services from water quality testing for the public to genome identification for research students and biotechnology industry. “At present, a lot of research samples are outsourced to labs in IISc. We plan to rent the facilities provided by Kerala University to give good quality research services,” said Dhanya. The startup plan to move to products in future. We are thinking about making value added products from waste, said Sherley.  The startup has been incubated with Kerala University Technology and Business Start-up-Centre (KUTBSC). Another startup with KUTBSC is called Ayur Biotech. Started by Manesh Kunjumon and Shayam S, it is involved in evaluation and product testing of ayurvedic products. 

Genomics Centre
Started by IT engineer Shaheen N Shah and his biotechnologist wife Safa in 2016, the company works on bioinformatics of next-generation sequencing (NGS) data. The big data analysis and use of artificial intelligence in biotechnology sector have multiple potentials. It will help hospitals diagnose gene mutation in patients. The company has been virtually incubated at CUSAT. “Marketing and funding are an issue. The technology we provide are very advanced even for big hospitals,” said Shaheen.

College of Agriculture, Vellayani 
Anti-venom: Greeshma A S and Rahumath N, final year students of integrated MSc Biotechnology course from the college plan to develop an anti-venom drug from plants. They are concentrating one plants used by traditional healers for their research. They are planning to incubate their startup. Still, a long way from clinical trial they are looking for collaboration with multi national companies, given its market potential for anti-venom drugs. They are conducting their research at Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) in Puthenthope.Tissue culture lab: Preetham Jadhav and Sachin Ekatpure are two research students in agriculture biotechnology. They are setting up tissue culture lab that can provide disease resistant crops. “Virus infection is a major problem for banana and ladies finger farmers. We would like to set up a company in Kerala since there are no such labs available at present,”  said Sachin. 

Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute 
Ph.D. students Gayathri V and Jeeshma M P are going into making superior quality enzymes. They think it has huge market potential in food and detergent industries. “The heat shock proteins will be of use in transporting food and detergents,” said Jeeshma. Bio-plastics: Pradeep S, a post doctoral fellow is currently doing research on making low-cost bio-plastics. He plans to develop it from industrial waste. Drug from plant: Nandu T G plans to develop drugs from plant sources.

Programmes of Kerala Biotechnology Commission
Biotechnology Young Entrepreneur (BYE) Award programme
Industry Linked Biotechnology Research Scheme (IBRS)
Biotechnology Innovations for Rural Development (BIRD)
Young Investigators Programme in Biotechnology (YIPB)  
Career Advancement in Biotechnology (CAB)

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