Genome Valley, India’s largest biotechnology cluster, is already modeled in part on Research Triangle Park.
The region, located in Hyderabad, a city in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, saw its strongest period of business growth in the middle part of the last decade. That growth followed an earlier RTP visit of an Indian delegation seeking to learn more about the RTP region.
But Jayesh Ranjan, vice chairman and managing director for Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation Limited, or APIIC, said that Genome Valley’s growth has plateaued. As the region looks to reinvent itself as a biotechnology community, it is again looking at RTP for guidance.
Ranjan was part of the Indian delegation that visited RTP last week. He took a few moments to talk to WRAL Tech Wire about Genome Valley and what that community hopes to learn from RTP.
Q: What interests you about RTP?
A: We understand that there are certain unique features of RTP, in the sense that it is not just about research per se. But how is that research brought into the market, commercialization of that research, what kind of funding approach is given for academic research, what kind of entrepreneurship support is given. The totality of all these activities is very, very advanced here in RTP and North Carolina.
Q: But there are other, tech and biotech clusters in the United States, such as Boston, Silicon Valley, Houston why are you looking specifically at RTP?
A: I understand that the clusters in Boston and Houston are very, very specialized. These are pharma clusters. (RTP) is a cluster where all types of activities are happening, not just pharma but also bioagriculture. Our interest in Hyderabad, India is to replicate something. The interest is not to get into one specialized niche but to maintain a broader base and this is the right model to replicate that.
Q: What have you learned so far?
A: In the Research Triangle, we noticed there’s a very good ecosystem that is also supported by the government. It’s not the government at arm’s length and everything is being managed by the private industry here. We see a very good partnership model between the government and industry, and the academic institutions. This is something which is is very, very worthy of emulating back in Hyderabad. Second is the entire value chain of biotechnology, starting from seeding an idea in a research lab in some university or center of excellence, piloting it, trying it out, then encouraging some entrepreneurs to test it in the market. And then of course, rolling it out in a very big way. Every step of that value chain has been attended to. There’s an adequate number of institutions that take care of that. That’s another nice feature which we must adopt when we do this in India. And the third thing is when you establish these facilities, you don’t establish them in a vaccuum. You also have to create a lot of social infrastructure. You have to make sure that housing is there. You have to make sure that other kind of facilities are behind this. Master planning. When we interacted with the people behind RTP, they showed us about the new master plan that they prepared. It combines some of the best features of how this kind of a physical growth must take place.
Q: How much of this infrastructure is already in place in Hyderabad?
A: Genome Valley is already there. So some of it can be retrofitted. But the gaps, the deficiencies in Genome Valley, which we intend to overcome very shortly, we will be looking at the RTP model to replicate.
Q: What are those gaps and deficiencies?
A: For example, we don’t have a biotechnology center like (the N.C. Biotechnology Center). We don’t have any facility that supports academic research. Research in the academic institutions in Hyderabad happens independently of what industry requires. The model which bring them together, makes it more targeted, makes it more focused, that is one gap. The second important gap is that we are right now only catering to the big players. Smaller entrepreneurs, medium-sized entrepreneurs don’t really get that kind of encouragement, which they deserve. But that is not true here. Entrepreneurs of different kinds capabilities and sizes are equally welcome. There are different kinds of facilities which cater to their requirements. That is another gap we have in Hyderabad. And this kind of a master planning … this kind of comprehensiveness and planning, these are some of the gaps we will be addressing. Because we realize that the province of Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad, has the potential to become one of the leading biotech clusters in Asia. If we learn from these successful cases, good examples, good practices of RTP here, we hope to reach that stage very, very shortly.