Nepal is not new to Biotechnology. In terms of academia, biotechnology entered Nepal as an undergraduate course at Kathmandu University in 2004. In almost a decade, there are now multiple academic institutions in Nepal teaching Biotechnology as either undergraduate or post graduate degrees.
In terms of application of biotechnology in industry, we are experiencing slow but study rise in this sector. The problem with applied biotechnology is not the knowledge but rather, the cost associated with it. For example, to set up a basic diagnostics lab in Kathmandu would easily exceed NRs 2 Crores (USD 250,000) not including required human resource and power backup requirements. The costs associated with running the infrastructure can also be quite high, depending on the equipment used and their usage. Similar case can be made for research labs in colleges and universities and R&D labs for industries.
Pharmaceutical Companies should ideally be utilizing tools of biotechnology for their use, since new drug and vaccine development is primarily the focus of the biotechnology industry these days. In most developed countries as well as developing countries (eg China, Brazil, India), the Research and Development wing of major pharmaceutical companies either have their own labs or outsource work to biotechnology companies or academia. This way, they are ensured of regular development of novel products to gain a market edge. In fact, there is a huge competition between scientists in such R&D sectors to be the first to bring out novel drug targets, vaccines and even diagnostic kits for major disease.
Unfortunately, this practice has not reached Nepal. Deurali Janata Pharmaceuticals may be an exception in this case as this pharma giant has in recent years started its own R&D biotechnology division.
Nepal’s biotechnology graduates are either going abroad for further studies and/or career purposes, or working in some of the related industries in the country. The food and beverage industry, hospital and diagnostics laboratories, and academia appear to be some of the main possibilities for the youth in the biotechnology sector. There is also a trend of young entrepreneurs venturing out to start-up companies and starting to show success in this field. The last 5 years has shown a rapid increase in such ventures, ranging from agriculture production to biomedical research.
Government of Nepal recently allowed Biotechnology as an official subject for government job services by way initiating tests Biotechnology in the government services under “Lok Sewa Ayog” (Public Service Commission). This now enables graduates of biotechnology to officially apply for suitable government jobs when advertised. Nepal Academy of Science (NAST), Nepal Agriculture Research Unit (NARC), Central Veterinary Lab (CVL), Department of Plant Research (DPR) are examples of government entities already involved in biotechnology research in the country. In this scenario, possibilities are now increasing for biotechnology graduates in the country.
India and China, Nepal’s two neighbours have not only invested heavily on biotechnology industry (including research and development) but have also benefited from those investments. Both these countries have clearly seen the benefits of biotechnology to humans, animals and the environment in the future and are now actively engaging in research and development towards new products and technologies for the future. Youths in the biotechnology sector should watch both these giants closely and extract information from both, so that same can be applied to Nepal. There is no doubt that biotechnology will play a major role in Nepal’s economy in the future.