Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology

Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology

Gaurang Shetty, CEO, RiiDl

RiiDl (Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory) is an initiative by Somaiya Vidyavihar to encourage entrepreneurship amongst its’ Students, Faculty, Staff & Alumni. It supports the creation & incubation of early-stage companies by providing entrepreneurship education, IP protection, space & infrastructure, access to business support services, early-seed capital, and mentorship.

Biotechnology is one of the fastest growing, knowledge-driven industries in India and is expected to play a key role in shaping India’s rapidly developing economy. Indian biotechnology industry registered over $11.6 billion revenue generation in 2016–17, which constitutes about two percent share of the global biotechnology market.

The biotechnology industry in India currently, comprises about 800 companies. The government has to invest $5 billion to develop human capital, infrastructure, and research initiatives if it is to realize the dream of growing the sector into a $100 billion industry by 2025, as per our Honourable Union Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Harsh Vardhan. Biopharmaceuticals are the largest biotechnology sector in India with about 62 percent market share. So, I believe we can accelerate and help the community at large by creating facilitating centers for harnessing biotech innovations.

The penetration of biotech innovations from schools and colleges will increase, only if create more open and accessible ecosystems for biology. Bio hackerspaces were slowly getting populated in the west and among top-notch people from the bio-ecosystems across India. I, along with my team from RiiDl, the Innovation Center and Technology Business Incubator of Somaiya Vidyavihar, Mumbai started brainstorming about the impact of biotech and how can we create such an ecosystem in our current educational setup. We already had set up a Technology Business Incubator in the Somaiya campus for startups under the thrust areas SMAC (Social Mobile Analytics and Cloud) & Embedded Electronics; the challenge was to scale it up and include Biology (food, agriculture, drug discovery and biotech) as a thrust area.

We did a survey in Mumbai and found out that there was neither any Bio Incubator nor a Do It Yourself Biology lab/Bio Hackerspace. We started building our team and put all our efforts to create a community around the DIYBio lab. We became the first listed DIYBio lab in Asia (2015-16).
We at riidl, wanted to enable the tools to do biotech innovations at a grassroots level. This led to the idea of kickstarting a Do It Yourself Biology Lab inside the Somaiya campus. We established a vibrant, productive and safe community of DIY biologists who helped individuals make projects and share them with the community. The simplest example is that a person can analyze his own DNA.
We were delighted to receive support both from Department of Science and Technology (DST NSTEDB) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT BIRAC) to accelerate our support to startups and Innovators across Mumbai. We have created a world-class Incubation center and digital fabrication facility to help startups realize their ideas. Now we will soon be setting up a full-fledged Bio-Incubator for startups around the Mumbai region.

Typically a new life science venture is started up when a scientist/professor/individual, through initial government/corporate grants, patents a process or product in biology. The individual then files a disclosure through the university office and begins discussions with the technology transfer or licensing officer at the university about commercializing the patent. She or he then writes a small business innovation research grant to fund the startup activities gathers some collaborators (business associates) and licenses the discovery from the university.

The penetration of biotech innovations from schools and colleges will increase, only if we were to create more open and accessible ecosystems for biology

The individual then has two choices: either continue in the university position while developing the company on the side or leave the academic position (permanently or temporarily on a leave of absence) to actively pursue the commercialization of his or her discovery. In the latter case, funding comes from personal funds, second mortgages on residences, loans, friends, families and other angel investors and venture capitalists. The venture is launched, typically focused on products, with a business model of forming a fully integrated company.

With the DIY Bio the entry barrier to create biotech products has been lowered and a lot more innovators are able to jump in. We help ease this process with set processes, in-house technical mentors, patent lawyers, alumni entrepreneurs and lab access. At an ideal condition, where all the stakeholders are known, an innovator in biotech space can make his prototype in 60 to 90 days and then can start validating his product.

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