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What is Biotechnology and its scope ?

Biotechnology is one of the world’s newest and most important applied science of the 21st century. It requires spirit and embraces basic sciences like Physics, Chemistry, Maths as well as engineering technology depending upon its application. In most general sense, Biotechnology refers to the use of microorganism, such as bacteria or yeast, or biological substances, such as enzymes to perform specific industrial or manufacturing process. It includes manipulation of organisms on the molecular and genetic level to improve health,safety, nutrition and environment.
Biotechnologist’s will be absorbed by almost every sphere of life whether it is agriculture, horticulture, dairy farming, pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry. Careers in biotechnology tend to be related to Research and development, Quality control, clinical Research, Manufacturing and Production, Patent administration, Management and Administration, hospital laboratories, Academic Research laboratories, Forensics, environmental cleanup and Bioinformatics. Being a part of the world of biotechnology, there is and would be an identification in itself.

Which are the promising biotech sectors likely to see high growth inthe coming 5-7 years?

If there is any area of science that will flourish after information technology,then it is biotechnology. There is proliferation of modern biology / biotechnology in all areas of life. The fields of diagnostics, vaccines, clinical trials, therapeuticsare some of the upcoming areas. The development of kits, equipments in theservices sector is equally important. In the next 2-3 years, the field of phyto / bioremediation technology may surpass the pharma field in the US and it willbe a money-spinner. The area of bioprospecting has emerged and India has agenetic gold rush of bio resources, which require high through put screening.Now things are being looked at a molecular level. It is required to have interdisciplinary knowledge and experience to venture in the areas of molecularmedicine. The era of genomics has started, with the sequencing of the human genome and specialized trained manpower in molecular virology, genetics,molecular immunology, stem cells, molecular immunology and molecularmonoclonal antibodies are required. In the next 5 years, according to Americanestimates there would be requirement of bioinformaticians. People with both bioinformatics and other biotech related skills are required and both have to work complementary to each other. Today we have very limited human resource in the area of modern biology in India. Along with these there is also a requirement of professionals with a masters qualification along with law or MBA.

Is it necessary to have a doctorate degree or can one get good job safter a Master's degree? What is the scope for an MBA biotechnology student?

The baseline is that there is no necessity of a PhD degree. With an MSc, MTech,B.Tech degree, one is equipped to do the routine activities like quality control,quality assurance, processing, production, downstream processing and fermentation whereas if one is looking at developing IPR for a company or gointo innovative research, then it is preferable to have a PhD degree. Finally, it is your mindset, which is important and not the degree. Similarly with an MBAbiotech degree you are more equipped towards marketing, marketing analysis and business development activities.

How can a student plan his career after a degree in biotechnology?

There are basically three types of students: First those who look for highereducation; Second, who opt for a job immediately after coming out from the college; and the third who look at becoming entrepreneurs. Students should have clarity in mind and focus on what they want. For pursuing future research , there are large opportunities both in the academia and the industry. The various universities, national research labs, ICMR institutes and Centers of Excellence provide a wide variety of options for students looking at higher education. The core recombinant technology areas for research are agriculture, medical research and healthcare (including services), industrial biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, bioenergy and biofuels.Students wanting to work in the industry can look at the areas of R&D, manufacturing, quality assessment / control, sales and marketing and marketing analysis. There are also a number of opportunities for working in the area of environment like the biological diversity arena. Since India is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity,which is dedicated to promoting sustainable development , we will need trained people in this area for the different regional offices to measure biodiversity , document its loss and extinction. The implementation of the biosafety measures will also require thousands of students. Some of the other areas are working on new agrotech practices, novel pesticides and biofertilizers. A large number of knowledge centers are needed in the rural areas which will employ educated youth for transforming the farming practices and promoting the concept of biovillage. This is similar to the rural development program in China. So students can do wonderful work in the rural technology centers in smaller cities and towns. In this way, the BSc/MSc biotechnology students can play a useful role in the Rural Bioresource Council.

What are the opportunities available for biotech personnel in the private sector?

Today, there is a specific requirement of quality manpower for the third generation of biotechnology. Till now, many a times, it has been seen that good scientists hesitate to come to the industry. Budding biotechnologists should remember that the biotech industry is now involved in innovative research and development. Earlier companies were spending about 5-10 percent of the total turnover into innovative R&D but of late they are investing 15-20 percent of the total turnover into it. Though the Indian industry is still at a nascent stage ofindigenous research and process development , its scientific environment (facilities) have been built consciously , which is very good. Students having an innovative bent of mind can enter this arena. Besides research there are openings at various levels like in quality control, marketing and sales, regulatory sector, technology transfer, clinical trials and in thebioservices segment (CROs). Since the industry has become more competitive, has specific human resource requirements, which it finds hard to fulfil. Presently, most of the students are like technicians and there is a great dearth of talent. It is important to remember that the industry is for profit and will identify the person based on his skills and attitude.

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