Biotechnology: is this a field of Hope or field of Disappointment for Biotech aspirants

Biotechnology is globally recognized as a rapidly emerging and far-reaching technology. It is aptly described as the “technology of hope” . But in Indian scenario, this field has failed in delivering what it promised in terms of employment. Way back from 2000, the word ‘Biotech’ has been used and been projected as technology of future, but looking at 2017 we have not reached any big milestones leaving aside some top names like Biocon, Dr Reddys, Bharat Biotech, Shantha Biotech. The employment opportunities are still desolate.

Revenue and growth but says a different story. As per recent records Biotechnology industry contributes 10-12% to the growth of the country every year.  India is among the top 12 biotech destinations in the world and ranks third in the Asia-Pacific region. India has the second-highest number of US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)–approved plants, after the USA and is the largest producer of recombinant Hepatitis B vaccine. The industry is projected to touch a target of 100$ billion by 2025 according to Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE). At this stage we have over 600 companies with Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)pitched at 20%.

The first two paragraphs contradicts. The first one is the voice of thousands of students who took up Biotechnology as their course of study and second paragraph gives the numbers from Biotech industry. It’s very much needed to understand why two groups assess the same situation differently. My effort here is to bring attention to those points.

Biotechnology Industry is a Blanket term

Biotechnology industry includes Biopharma, Bioservices, Bioagri, Bioindustry and Bioinformatics. Biopharma is the largest sector contributing about 64 per cent of the total revenue followed by bioservices (18 per cent), bioagri (14 per cent), bioindustry (3 per cent), and bioinformatics contributing (1 per cent).

This would mean it’s not alone ‘Biotechnology student’ who work here but students from different background like pharma, chemistry, microbiology, biomedical engineering. So when the colleges or media project the scope of Biotechnology it does not only involves Biotech but students from any science stream.

Biotechnology: Jack of all, master of none

If you look at the course curriculum or if you are a biotechnology student you would understand what this means. An array of courses are taught during graduation and post graduation. This will include genetics, genetic engineering, molecular biology, tissue culture, both plant and animal, developmental biology, statistics, bioinformatics, fermentation technology, cell biology and many more. Also there does not exist any national level syllabus. Biotechnology courses offered across states differ in terms of topics they offer. The truth is each of these are topics which would need good three to five years of studies to call yourself a master. So when a student from Biotech lands in a job interview mostly he will fall flat as what he or she would have learned would be only basics.

Colleges fail to deliver

Biotechnology is very much a technology centric course and hence it needs labs with well equipped tools and good stock of chemicals. Most of the colleges (does not mean all) which offer this course does not have lab facility or experienced teaching staff to give students hands-on-experience in all the topics. Many a times the experiments become class experiments where one person or teaching staff perform the experiment for the whole class. The sad part is that most of the colleges fail to even place the students for internship, where at least they would have got the chance to play with basic lab tools. So when a student comes out of the course they will not know how to use a micropipette or cast basic gel.

No alignment with industry need

The course syllabus offered is many a times outdated. Also courses are not designed to meet industry needs. The fact is this field is ever evolving and hence syllabus revision would be needed every year if it has to walk with technology changes. Making things worse is the fact that there is a formal, very rigid structured system in place to bring in syllabus change. It takes lot of time in converting the suggestions from these committees to reality.

More supply

“Across India, about 40,000 biotechnology students pass out every year but the total industry, with about 500 biotech companies, employs not more than 50,000 across the country. That leaves a supply and demand gap of about 25:1”. This comment was made by an industry expert couple of years back. I think the status remain the same.

These are some of the points which came to my mind. Would like hear from you all. The aim is to help all those students who are planning to take up this course or are still pursuing. Would like to conclude by making one statement.  Carryout in depth reading and research before opting for this course in India.

3 Responses

  1. I would like to comment here. It is true that Biotechnology is a blanket term and each course would require a continuous 5 years of study to call yourself a master. So this calls for an additional 4-5 years of study. I think PhD answers that call and the post-graduation in Biotechnology should be merged with a PhD. So instead of 40,000 masters, 40,000 PhDs should pass out every year.

    • PanagiaAdmin says:

      Completely agree Doctor, but problem lies in the fact we do not have many world class institutes. If we had so many good places why would Indian students fly to US. Also for a point I know that at corporate jobs US returns are paid more than Indian PhDs

      • Sanil Sansar says:

        40000×5 years=200000years.
        The amount of time it takes is incredibly high to keep the students in academic research.

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