Budget 2021: A Covid ‘blessing’? Finally, biotech sector gets booster shots


2021-02-01 20:15:49

NEW DELHI: After years of being ignored by successive FMs, the Covid-19 pandemic finally forced the government to take note of the country’s biotech sector that has been at the forefront in the fight against coronavirus.
The Budget prescribed plenty of direct and indirect booster doses for the sector this year, including the proposed 137% hike in outlay on health and well-being, the Rs 35,000 crore allocation for Covid vaccination, and investment in public research and innovation infrastructure.
Pointing out that this is the first time the FM has spoken about preventive and curative health and well-being, Bharat Biotech chairman & MD Dr Krishna Ella termed the announcements as significant and far-reaching. Agreeing, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said the emphasis on healthcare spending and immunisation will help India recover rapidly from the pandemic and also encourage more innovation and expansion in the sector.
Biocon CMD Kiran Mazumdar Shaw welcomed the announcements but felt the big missing piece was the lack of encouragement to private sector R&D. “It’s disappointing that the government feels… we should be left to fend for ourselves but they ought to look at it more seriously,” she said.
Agreeing, vaccine industry pioneer and Shantha Biotechnics founder KI Varaprasad Reddy said: “The government has moved positively. Covid-19 has opened their eyes. I am very glad that they are trying to strengthen the biotech manufacturing base, but what about R&D, which is the legs on which the sector stands? It’s a move forward but the step is too small,” he said.
Ram Kaundinya, director general, Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), too expressed disappointment at the lack of specific initiatives to boost R&D, which is a very important aspect of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
However, K Anand Kumar, managing director, Indian Immunologicals Limited, said the increased allocation of Rs 2.23 lakh crore will make quality healthcare affordable.



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