Plant biotechnology could be the answer for the development of cost-effective drugs. The pharmaceutical industry needs to increase its research initiatives in the field to look at edible drugs produced from plants. There have already been several efforts in the field and there is a need to take this research forward, according to Prof Marc Van Montagu, from the University of Ghent and member on the Avesthagen board.
Prof Montagu is a well-known biotechnologist who co-discovered the gene transfer mechanism between Agrobacterium tumefaciens and plants. He was in Bangalore for a felicitation by the Association of Biotechnology Entrepreneurs (ABLE) and Avesthagen. He is also credited to have constructed the first chimerical plant gene, which resulted in the development of methods to alter Agrobacterium into an efficient delivery system for plant gene engineering.
The science of genetic engineering is critical for the future. Therefore for the development and increase usage of plant biotechnology, research universities, public sector enterprises and start-ups in the developing world will have to tap the opportunities, stated Prof. Montagu. "Nutrition is a recent science and plants have high concentration of particles which are suitable for the development of drugs among other value-added products, he added.
Society needs biotech innovation. Big companies can innovate only to a small extent; its start ups like Avesthagen among others that will bring a variety of innovation to the world, he said.
According to Prof Montagu, plants have the vital resources for protecting the environment. Scientists are looking at methods to use plant biotechnology to detoxify the water having heavy metal contents. Another promising area of plant biotechnology is the development of bio-energy. Chemical industries too are looking at genetic engineering because synthetic analogues of chemicals can be obtained from plants.
In all these areas, the involvement of start-up companies cannot be ignored. Once the technology has been identified by the start-ups, it can scaled up for commercialization by the multinational companies. However, there is a need to simplify the existing regulations for approvals in the area of plant biotechnology so that companies can take the products faster to the market, he said.
Plant biotechnology is the future. Prof Montagu's model of innovation leading to applied research and resulting in company spin-offs could be an ideal one for any company or research institution, stated Dr Villoo Morawalla Patell, chairman and managing director Avesthagen.
According to Dr KK Narayanan, president, Association of Biotechnology Led Entrepreneurs (ABLE) and managing director, Metahelix Lifesciences, the application of technology helps to boost agricultural productivity. Therefore importance of plant biotechnology cannot be ignored.