India launches new mission to develop antibiotic molecules

February 22nd, 2008 - 11:51 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) India has launched a mission to screen and develop antibiotic molecules to tap the over $25 billion global antibiotics market. The department of biotechnology under the ministry of science and technology Friday said it has launched a network project called “screening for bio-molecules from microbial diversity collected from different ecological niches”.

The project involves nine institutes with NPIL Research and Development Ltd (NRDL) as an industrial partner. The total cost of the project is Rs.248.6 million ($6 million) of which the biotechnology department’s contribution is Rs.179.8 million.

The department said in statement that the demand for new and more effective antibiotics continues to grow particularly as bacterial resistance to existing antibiotics spreads.

“The market for antibiotic drugs is huge and in 2005 the worldwide sales of oral antibiotics totalled $25 billion. Apart from being huge, the market is also growing at a significant rate, with adult and paediatric prescriptions growing at 8.5 percent and 10.8 percent respectively,” the department said.

The science ministry too has roped in several institutes including National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and Institute of Life Sciences (ILS), Bhubaneswar to do the work.

The project envisages a large-scale screening programme for various environmental isolates.

This is the first project in the country where industry and academia will work together to screen such a large number of bacterial isolates. Different academic institutes will isolate organism-specific to diverse ecological niches.

The project will lead to selection of potential candidate molecules, which will be taken to process scale-up strategies with appropriate partners. A separate microbial repository is being set up at National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune to maintain the 200,000 isolates generated under this project.

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