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Prospect of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has tremendous possibilities to do a lot better by focusing on biotechnology and genetic engineering. A very exciting field of biotechnology is bioinformatics which is actually the marriage between biology and computer science, where enormous amount of data that are being produced in the biological research laboratories around the globe are compared, analysed, and annotated to discover new genes, characterise them, develop new drugs and build complex biological networks. The sequencing of a whole genome has been made possible through the bioinformatics approach and, of course, the functional annotation, finding the distinct regions responsible for unique functions or characteristics.

Globally, the pharmaceutical companies have given keen attention to maximize the utilization of biotechnology in pharmaceutical fields and, hence, they are investing huge amounts for the invention, development, manufacturing and marketing of biotech drugs. The pharmaceutical companies of Bangladesh are also turning to the biotech products. Some companies have already introduced some biotech products like human insulin, anticancer drugs, etc. and some are on the process of launching many other biotech products. Although the journey of Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies on the road of biotechnology and biotech products is still at the primary stage, yet it’s a positive sign that Bangladeshi companies are trying to cope with global pharmaceutical trend and they have taken this initiative to mitigate the local demand of biotech products in Bangladesh.

Biotech products for the management of diseases:

● Drug for Autoimmune diseases and Inflammation
● Blood and Lymphatic System products
● Anti-cancers drugs
● Hormones & Enzymes
● Cardiovascular drugs
● Drugs act on CNS disorders (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia)
● Drugs act on digestive system (e.g., liver diseases)
● Antibiotics and anti-infective drugs (e.g., hepatitis B & C)
● Drugs for kidneys and Genito-Urinary system disorders (e.g. urogenital diseases, renal failure)
● Drugs for metabolic disorders (e.g. diabetes, obesity)
● Drugs act against respiratory & pulmonary diseases (e.g., influenza, asthma)

Now a days, safer vaccines can be designed and produced by organisms transformed by means of genetic engineering. These vaccines will elicit the immune response without the attendant risks of infection. They will be inexpensive, stable, easy to store, and capable of being engineered to carry several strains of pathogen at once. Gene therapy is used for treating, or even curing, genetic and acquired diseases like cancer and AIDS by using normal genes to supplement or replace defective genes or to bolster a normal function such as immunity. As of June 2001, more than 500 clinical gene-therapy trials involving about 3,500 patients have been identified worldwide. These trials focus on various types of cancers. Recently, two children born with severe combined immunodeficiency disorder were reported to have been cured after being given genetically engineered cells.

Recombinant DNA technology has made revolution in the discovery and commercial production of many biotech drugs. In where a microorganism is isolated; its genetic material is cut, manipulated, sealed, again inserted in an organism and allowed to grow in a suitable environment under controlled conditions to get the desired product.

Although Bangladesh is a developing country in Asia, for biotechnology development it has great potential. This is because the enormous biodiversity and the fertile land we have.

Due to the crying need of biotech products for the achievement of self-sufficiency for human medicines, the pharmaceutical companies of Bangladesh are turning to biotech and high tech products gradually. Several companies have already introduced anti-cancer, anti-HIV/AIDS drugs, human insulin, and many other companies are planning to launch biotech and high tech products to keep pace with the world’s pharma market trend, to fulfill the local demand of biotech products, as well as to export those products to other countries.

Anti-cancer drugs: The estimated market of anti-cancer drugs is BDT 300 crore.

Human insulin: The value of human insulin consumption in Bangladesh is estimated as BDT 100 crore.

Vaccines: The estimated market of vaccines in Bangladesh is BDT 100 crore.

Anti-HIV/AIDS drugs: Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd. is the only company in Bangladesh involved with the manufacturing of anti-HIV/AIDS drugs since the last few years.

In future, many Bangladeshi companies may show interest to manufacture biotech finished products. Almost all living things contain compounds, which are therapeutic to us, and a great deal of the medicines which are available today are made from plants. For example, a certain type of fungus is found to produce a novel antioxidant enzyme that sucks up free radicals that are known to encourage the growth of tumors. Marine biotechnologists found that organisms containing certain compounds have the ability to destroy tumors, could prevent inflammation, help to relive pain and were able to kill microorganisms. Thus, by using our natural sources and sufficient scientists from Pharmaceutical, Biological and Microbiological background with minimum remuneration, we can start biotechnological research activities for the invention of new biotech molecules.

Actually, the possibility of basic development of biotech molecules/products through research would be practically next to impossible for the private sector without active support from the govt. considering its high technology, expenses, time consumption, investment return, etc. Alternatively, foreign investment in this segment or tie-up with foreign Biotech companies would make it happen.

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