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Dec 3, 2012 (4 years and 10 months ago)

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Chennai
-

The Bio Valley

Chennai has been an early adopter of biotechnology. Chennai’s biotech showpiece, the Rs
62.5 crore Ticel Bio Park Limited, in collaboration with Cornell University, was inaugurated
last April. Its wet labs are equipped with the l
atest equipment to facilitate top quality research
in fermentation & microbiology, molecular biology, plant tissue culture, downstream
processing and analysis. Besides the park will also feature
-

Customized Lab Facility,
Greenhouse Facility and Training C
enter. The Park is expected to become operational by
January 2004.

While inaugurating the Ticel (TIDCO Center for Life Sciences) park, Tamil Nadu Chief
Minister J Jayalalithaa said that her Government would soon set up a Marine Biotechnology
Park at Mamall
apuram with an investment of Rs 50 crore, to offer unique incubating facilities
for commercial exploitation in pharmaceuticals, food supplements and cosmetics.

The Golden Jublee Biotech Park for Women Society set up on the outskirts of Chennai is the
first

Park in India exclusively for women entrepreneurs in biotechnology. The park, which was
commercialized in May 2001 offers centralized support services to a series of biotechnology,
based activities by women. "The biotech enterprises are
more in the lower
end of the


spectrum with project sizes from a few lakh to a couple of
crore. We are enterprises in the area of

cosmetics, bio
fertilizers, herbal spices, aqua ornamentals, food research
etc. Our


future plan includes a bio
-
informatics center and
incubation center," said Dr Sucharita Kumar, CEO,
Biotech Park for Women. Promoted by the DBT and the state government,t
he technical
support is being extended by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.

Besides the Marine Biotechnology Park, the state plans to start centers like Medicinal Plants
Biotechnology Park and the Bioinformatics and Genomics Centre (BGC).

MSSRF
-

the magn
et for biotech

Chennai can boast of yet another organization
-

MS Swaminathan Research Foundation,
which was established at a time when human kind started facing serious ecological and social
problems. The foundation was started by world famous geneticist
M S Swaminathan.

MSSRF has accorded the highest priority to the application of frontier technologies for
enhancing food and livelihood security of the coastal farming and fishing communities. The
biotechnology program at the MSSRF focuses on conservation,
sustainable utilization and
enhancement of the vital bio
-
resources in the coastal region. MSSRF was the first to propose
the concept that mangroves can be invaluable donors of breeding crop genotypes adapted to
coastal salinity through recombinant DNA tech
nology. Efforts for identification of unique
genes in mangroves have also been undertaken using large
-
scale genome sequencing and
differential expression analysis. As many as 2000 partial gene sequences from mangroves
have been deposited in worldwide datab
ases.

The Center for Biotechnology (CBT) at Anna University, established in 1987 is a pride of
Tamil Nadu by being the first of its kind institutes being set up in India. The B
-
Tech(Industrial
Biotechnology) program evolved in 1991 is again the first of it
s kind in India. The R&D facility
established here is to the tune of Rs 15 crore and has high
-
end infrastructure to cater to the

TICEL Park in Chennai

industrial needs, said Prof Arun Balakrishnan, Director
-

Center for Biotechnology, Anna
University.

The center has facilities
to conduct research in bioprocess technology, mMolecular biology,
cell biology and immunology."In future we plan to convert CBT into a Contract Research
Organization (CRO) with GMP for product development. Further we intend to span its
collaborative activi
ties with industry to convert basic research into technology and attract
more and more young entrepreneur’s to use facility for business incubation," said
Balakrishnan.

The deparment of biotechnology at Madurai Kamaraj Univeristy in the southern city of
Ma
durai is a nationally acclaimed research centers. It is among the handful of universities
which has been running an M.Tech( biotech) program for over a decade. The bioinformatics
candidates from this institution are lapped by the industry in a big way.

CLR
I (Central Leather Research Institute), run by the CSIR, has been in the forefront in the
development of technologies for leather sector. Headquartered in Chennai, CLRI caters to the
leather industry in the pre
-
tanning and post
-
tanning areas. "In biotechno
logy, research work is
carried out on the use of microbial enzyme technology. In the leather industry, the major
problem is caused because of the use of sodium sulphide and lime in the pre
-
tanning
operations. Sodium sulphide is highly toxic and causes majo
r problem to workers in this
industry. Use of slime creates sludge problem. To obviate these problems efforts are
underway to develop enzymatic products from microbes to fully replace sodium sulphide and
lime," said Dr R Puvanakrishnan, deputy director & h
ead, department of Biotechnology, CLRI.

There is a bunch of private players in Tamil Nadu who too are tapping the bio
-
resources of
the State. Shantha Marine has notched up a turnover of Rs 6 crore in its first year of
operations and on the basis of its cur
rent orders "and we hope to achieve around Rs 15 crore
during the current year. "With our planned foray into the international markets this is expected
to double," said KO Isaac, MD, Shantha Marine Biotech. Working with microbial metabolites
sourced from t
he oceans is its focus area. This involves constantly isolating new strains from
various coastal environments, coral reefs, mangroves and the ocean floor in pursuit of better
producers of targeted metabolites.

"Considering that these strains are wild, thes
e need to be changed so that culture, growth and
metabolite characteristics conform to requirements of a commercial scale production cycle
and feasibility. This is much like attempting to start a dairy farm with a wild cow," added Isaac.
In addition, the c
ompany also works with the concept of creating ‘biological reactors’ with its
organisms whereby genetic material for the production of an altogether new ‘metabolite’ is
inserted into the organisms so that it can produce the targeted metabolite at a signifi
cantly
cheaper cost.

Amrutanjan, based out of Chennai is making a strong impact in the biotechnology space. In
biotechnology the company is focusing in the cloning and expression of recombinant
therapeutic protein. As part of the expansion into biotech res
earch, it is constructing a biotech
R&D unit. The unit will have a facility for protein downstream processing, work related to
molecular biology, tissue culture, mammalian cell culture etc.

UK
-
based Amersham Biosciences, a world leader in developing system
s and solutions for
disease research, drug discovery, drug development, and drug manufacture has its Indian
head office in Chennai. Similarly there are players like EID Parry, JK Pharmachem, Mediclone
Biotech Ltd, Malladi Research Center, SPIC, Brainwave,
Eppendorf, Micro Devices Metrohm,
to name a few , making a mark in biotechnology.

Nisha Kurien (CNS)