The biotech space has witnessed radical transformations in the last 15 years, both globally and in India. Worth $50 Bn in 2018, the Indian biotech economy currently comprises of more than 600 core biotechnology companies and more than 2,600 biotech startups, accounting for a 3% share in the global biotechnology industry. To further unleash the potential of Indian biotech, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), in partnership with Indian Angel Network (IAN), has announced the launch of BioAngels Network “BioAngels” (BiAN). IAN comprises close to 500 members across the world, including entrepreneurs and CEOs. With investors from 11 countries, IAN’s presence spans seven locations, including cities in India and the UK.
The network has funded startups across 17 sectors in India and seven other countries so far, with the portfolio including WebEngage, Druva, Box8, Sapience Analytics, WOW Momos, Consure among others.
The IAN recently launched an INR 450 Cr fund, where entrepreneurs can raise between INR 25 Lakh and INR 50 Cr and also gain support from its roster of mentors, entrepreneurs and angels. BIRAC has infused INR 978 Cr in this space along with committing INR 937 Cr to the industry in the last seven years.
Since its launch, 750+ biotech startups have been supported by BIRAC and together achieved a valuation of more than INR 3,500 Cr. Around 33 such companies have achieved a valuation of INR 365.4 Cr in the last three years alone.
BIRAC is a not-for-profit public sector enterprise, set up by the department of biotechnology (DBT) under the ministry of science and technology, as an interface agency to strengthen and empower emerging biotech enterprises to undertake strategic research and innovation. The collaboration of BIRAC and IAN aims to create the single largest national platform for biotech angel investing.
BioAngels Network Looks To Fuel Biotech Innovation
BiAN is created as an open architecture platform to build an ecosystem conducive to the growth and proliferation of biotech startups.
“To achieve this, BiAN is committed to supporting biotech innovators who are developing affordable and accessible products that solve major pain points of society today,” COO of Indian Angel Network, Digvijay Singh, told Inc42.
The IAN and BIRAC collaboration should allow innovators to gain a stronger footing in the high-risk, high-cost biotech sector. The collaboration will also facilitate the growth of Indian biotech enterprises and startups, opening up much higher levels of funding, talent, and market access. “It seeks to build an ecosystem of domain experts to help investors understand the innovation in biotech and its critical need; a network of business mentors; and network of R&D facilities, corporates, etc. to help companies pilot, validate, and grow,” Singh added.
The BioAngels Network will also be working on creating overseas partnerships for validation, patenting, next rounds, among others. An investor base of 50 angel investors, 20 family offices or strategic investors, and ten corporates will be created over the next three years. It also plans to invest INR 1 Cr to support 100 ventures; making 25 investments worth INR 3 Cr – INR 5 Cr, and 20 investments ranging from INR 7 Cr to INR10 Cr in the same time period.
In addition to being one of the 12 largest biotech economies in the world, India is also the third most sought-after biotech destination in the Asia Pacific Region.
The BioAngels Network initiative will be driven by a robust operational focus, frameworks, processes, and governance, and powered by an inclusive group of ecosystem stakeholders. These include HNIs, angel investors, family offices, strategic investors, corporates, and VCs. The platform will facilitate the expansion of BIRAC’s empowering policies, mentoring, and market access to biotech innovators across India and overseas by leveraging the geographical reach and industry linkages of IAN.
“Biotech startups are focused on creating a transformational impact in India before they disrupt global markets. They hold the key to unlocking a healthier, tech-driven future for India along with the unparalleled potential of digital healthcare,” said Manish Diwan, head of strategic partnership and entrepreneurship development, BIRAC, in a statement.
He added that BiAN creates a unique opportunity to bring in equity investments for startups that have hitherto been neglected largely by the major investors in India, especially in the early-stage where capital is key for product development and R&D.
Can India Become World’s Leading Biotech Destination?
In 2015, around 10 healthcare companies went public on the NASDAQ. India has grown to become home to the second-highest number of USFDA-approved plants, and the third-largest biotech destination in the Asia Pacific region.
“Currently worth $2 Bn the country’s biotechnology market is expected to cross USD 100 billion in the next half-decade,” Singh told us.
The IAN COO also explained the comprehensive definitions of bioeconomy as mentioned in the official conference report of the Global Bioeconomy Summit 2018 includes the production, utilisation and conservation of biological resources, including related knowledge, science, technology, and innovation, to provide information, products, processes and services across all economic sectors aiming toward a sustainable economy, he quoted.
Biotechnology is the technology-based approach towards creating the bioeconomy. Its disruptive potential has till now transformed some of the traditional industries including food processing and fermentation. Currently, biotech is leading the advancements in industrial production of antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals, food, and energy sources and also the processing of waste materials.
“BIRAC is dedicated to bolstering and empowering budding biotechnology ventures to undertake strategic research and innovation. The Indian biotech is made up of five major components: Bio-pharma, Bio-agri, Bio-services, Bio-industrial, and Bio-informatics. The biopharmaceutical sector generates more than 55% of total revenues – the largest in the industry – followed by market share of bio-agri which stood at 22% 2018,” Singh added.
Last year, bio-services accounted for 16% of the market share, indicating the realisation of India’s potential to become the leading destination for clinical trials, contract research, and manufacturing activities. Bio-industrial companies make up the remaining market share (8%).
Women Power In Biotech Startups
Female entrepreneurs are playing a key role in advancing the progress of the Indian bioeconomy and will be instrumental in achieving the vision of unlocking $100 Bn for the industry in the next ten years. A 2016 white paper submitted by the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises estimated the emergence of 1,022 biotech enterprises in the half-decade in India.
Furthermore, it revealed that there are a total of 3K entrepreneurs in the field, of which one-third (at least 1,000) are women entrepreneurs.
Some of the women highfliers disruptive the Indian biotech space through their innovative ventures include prominent names such as Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and MD of Biocon Ltd. She founded Biocon India with a capital of INR 10K in her garage in 1978 and led the company to become one of the biggest biopharmaceutical firms in the country today.
Neha Rastogi is another entrepreneur driving great impact on the back of her innovative startup, Agatsa. The company creates affordable healthcare devices based on the latest technology for early diagnosis and management of diseases that can be used by an individual without much training. For her disruptive solution, she was recently recognised as the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year at the TiE Global Summit 2019.
Growth Despite Infrastructural Hurdles
Within the startup ecosystem, the biotech space is riddled with the most sector-specific challenges. Firstly, it takes almost a decade, sometimes more, for a biotech or biopharmaceutical startup to launch a market-ready product. Moreover, these startups need a large amount of capital infusion to acquire and run laboratories, use consumables, reagents, cell lines, animal models, equipment, etc.
In spite of the challenges, India is today the leader in the global supply of DPT, BCG and measles vaccines. Additionally, initiatives such as the BioAngels Network and the boom in independent biotech research and startups are expected to take India’s biotech industry a notch above its global counterparts.
“Despite tremendous opportunities and progress, the Indian biotechnology sector has been overshadowed by other sectors such as ecommerce, financial services, data analytics and others. It still hasn’t achieved that degree of popularity among students, parents, and investors which is usually reserved for those sectors,” said Singh.