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Department of Biotechnology (DBT)

The remarkable march of India into the world of biosciences and technological advances began in 1986, when a separate Department for Biotechnology, within the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India was created. 

Journey of DBT

The initiation of deliberations to establish the department started much earlier. In 1982, after detailed deliberations with the scientific community, and on the basis of recommendations by the then Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet, a National Biotechnology Board (NBTB) was constituted by the Government to identify priority areas and evolve long term perspective for Biotechnology in India. It was also responsible for fostering programmes and strengthening indigenous capabilities in this newly emerging discipline.

The NBTB was chaired by the formidable scientist Professor M.G.K. Menon, the then Member (Science) of India’s Planning Commission. All the Secretaries to the various departments of the government dealing with science were appointed as Members of this Board. A separate Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was finally set up in February, 1986 and the NBTB selected Dr. S. Ramachandran as the first Secretary of the department.

  • There were many serious challenges at the start. First, there were inter-departmental conflicts with no department willing to part with its earlier responsibilities to a new but specialised body.
  • The second most important problem was the “tendency of Indian scientists to publish only in national journals” because publishing in international and solidly peer-reviewed journals took too long.
  • Third, the industry could not be persuaded early to join hands as governmental procedures took too long.
  • The fourth major obstacle was procuring scientific equipment and reagents and other vital necessities for lab research.
  • In those days in the country, not too many people were working on biosciences. The department had, therefore, to focus on
    • Developing human resources
    • Creation of appropriate infrastructure
    • Research and development
    • Creating a regulatory framework

Despite the challenges, the department started to roll on almost as soon as it was formed. The first autonomous institute, the National Institute of Immunology which was set up in 1981 was brought under the wings of DBT. Soon after, it was joined by the National Facility for Animal Tissue and Cell Culture of Pune formed in 1986 which was later christened the National Centre for Cell Science. The late 1990s and early 2000 saw many other institutes like The National Institute for Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) followed, the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting & Diagnostics, Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development and the Institute of Life Sciences take shape. Subsequently, several other prominent institutes like Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THISTI), Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (INstem), National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) at Mohali, and National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) at Kalyani in West Bengal were established.

There is also renewed effort on social aspects such as health care, food and agriculture, energy and environmental security. International collaborations have become more strategic, with better reach and breadth and industry partnerships are growing. The new focus on Young India is clear from the various Grants and Funds as well as Awards, and the DBT’s commitment to revisit the funding mechanism to ensure a quicker assessment of project values and disbursements of funds for research.

Vision and Mission of DBT

Vision
"Attaining new heights in biotechnology research, shaping biotechnology into a premier precision tool of the future for creation of wealth and ensuring social justice – specially for the welfare of the poor."

Mission
Biotechnology is a frontline area of science with immense potential for the benefit of the human kind. The Department shall devote wholly to achieve excellence in the promotion of biotechnology in the country within the ambit of the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961 as enumerated through the Government of India notifications No. CD-172/86 dated 27.2.86 and No. CD-87/87 dated 31.1.87. The Department shall provide services in the areas of research, infrastructure, generation of human resource, popularization of biotechnology, promotion of industries, creation of centers of excellence, implementation of biosafety guidelines for genetically modified organisms and recombinant DNA products and biotechnology-based programs for societal benefits. Bioinformatics is a major mission to establish an information network for the scientific community, nationally and internationally. Mission of DBT is:

  • Realising full potential of biotechnology
  • A well directed effort, significant investment for generation of products, processes and technologies
  • Enhance efficiency and productivity and cost-effectiveness of agriculture, nutritional security, molecular medicine, environmentally sustainable technologies, scientific and technological empowerment of human resource, a strong infrastructure for research and commercialization, enhance the knowledge base, nurturing the leads of potential utility, bringing the bioproducts to the market place
  • Socio-economic development / applicants of biotech for upliftment of women, rural, SC & ST population
  • Promote biotech industry

National Biotechnology Development Strategy

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, announced the First National Biotechnology Development Strategy in September 2007. The implementation of Biotech Strategy 2007 has provided an insight into the enormous opportunities. Boundaries between disciplines once considered distant are now beginning to blur and as a consequence of their convergence given birth to newer opportunities and challenges. Thus, it was felt opportune to take a critical look at the Indian biotech sector as it will likely unfold over the next 5-6 years.

In year 2015, DBT announced “The National Biotechnology Development Strategy-2015-2020” (hereinafter referred to as ‘Strategy-II’), which was framed after a wider consultation with stakeholders. Strategy-II was seamlessly build on the earlier Strategy to accelerate the pace of growth of biotechnology sector at par with global requirements.

Major Initiatives of the National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-2020

  • Launch four major missions in healthcare, food and nutrition, clean energy and education
  • Create a technology development and translation network across India with global partnership, including 5 new clusters, 40 biotech incubators, 150 TTOs, and 20 bio-connect centres
  • Ensure strategic and focused investment in building the human capital by setting up a Life Sciences and Biotechnology Education Council

Schemes & Programmes of DBT

Research & Development

Medical Biotechnology

Agriculture, Animal & Allied Sciences

Knowledge Generation & Discovery Research, New Tools and Technologies

Energy, Environment and Bio-Resource Based Applications

Building Capacities

Teaching

Training

National Fellowships

International Fellowships

Awards

Popularization & Promotion of Biotechnology

Building Critical Mass of Science Leaders

International Cooperation

Promoting Biotechnology in North East Region

Translational & Industrial Development Programmes

Special Programmes

Mission Programmes

Research Facilities, Resources & Technology Platforms

Biotech Facilities

Autonomous Institutes

Public Sector Undertaking (PSUs)

Source:  Department of Biotechnology (DBT)

 



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