IIT-Roorkee PhD research scholar awarded the Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Government of India

Roorkee: A Ph.D. research scholar from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee has been awarded Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Government of India. Mr. Sidharth Arora, a research scholar from the Department of Biotechnology, IIT Roorkee was awarded a grant-in-aid of upto Rs. 50 Lakh for a period of 18 months for his project on the production of a thermo-tolerant and acid stable Phytase in a novel solid-state fermentation (SSF) bioreactor. Foundation for innovation and Technology transfer (FITT) in IIT Delhi is one of the BIG partners and is associated with Mr. Sidharth for providing mentoring support and project monitoring.

Speaking about his grant, Sidharth Arora, Ph.D. research scholar from IIT Roorkee said, “I am happy to receive the ignition grant from BIRAC. The guidance which I received from my mentors, especially my Ph.D. supervisor Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh, at IIT Roorkee has been extraordinary and I am thankful for their untiring support. We have also prepared a revenue model/ scale-up plan for the next 5 years, which shows the Phytase production capacity and growth in revenue generation over a period of time using our SSF Bioreactor technology. We hope to bring in a new cost-effective method of producing Phytase, which is a need for the animal feed industry today.”

Phytase is an enzyme which is extensively used as an additive in poultry, cattle and fisheries feed, where it enhances the nutritional value of the feed. Currently, thermostable Phytase is imported mostly from China and is expensive when it reaches the Indian market. Mr. Sidharth Arora, worked on a novel bioreactor technology for Phytase production in a cost-effective manner. He used a method called solid-state fermentation which included agro-waste as a substrate for the fermentation. Through this process, the Phytase produced was acid-stable and thermo-tolerant. The bioreactor technology also has immense scope for solid waste management and pollution control. A patent has also been filed for the design and mode of operation of the SSF bioreactor. Inspired by his research output and funding support, Mr. Arora has formed a company called ‘Fermentech Labs’, which is presently being incubated at TIDES Business Incubator, IIT Roorkee.

“Another advantage of this technology (SSF) is that it will help in mitigating air and soil pollution due to burning of agro-waste, especially in regions like Punjab and Haryana. We will collect the agro-waste and use it as a substrate for the production of industrial enzymes like Phytase. This will provide a mode of disposal of agro-waste and a source of revenue to farmers and they will not burn down the crop stubs, which otherwise degrades air quality and soil fertility” Added Mr. Arora.

The Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) scheme is an initiative of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. The scheme enables technology innovators and entrepreneurs to pursue a promising technology idea and established and validate proof of concept (POC) for the idea.