This year’s US-India BioPharma & Healthcare Summit identified areas where India can create a niche for itself, but called for more supportive action from policy makers to make this a reality, reports Viveka Roychowdhury
Mounting expectations from India as an emerging nation-pharma powerhouse were tempered with concerns on the policy front at this year’s US-India BioPharma & Healthcare Summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
As emcee, Dr William (Bill) Chin, Executive Dean for Research, Harvard Medical School said that the goal of the USAIC Summits is to discuss how to create affordable innovation. Giving a perspective, he opined that “while the focus may be India, the problems and solutions are actually applicable worldwide so we are looking at creating a global model.”
India’s ‘magic beans’
Some of those areas, dubbed India’s “magic beans” came to light in a new report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) which was unveiled at the Summit. Commissioned by the USAIC, the report, titled Biopharma R&D: Moving the Needle in Innovation, made the point that although the Indian government has declared 2010 to 2020 the “Decade of Innovation,” the country must encourage greater investment and activity in bioinformatics, applied research, and translational research to maximise opportunities for R&D in the life sciences.
|Oncology research panel (from left): Moderator Dr. Raju Kucherlapati, Professor, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School; Dr. Nirmal Ganguly, President JIPMER and former Director General, ICMR; Dr. Elad Sharon, National Cancer Institute; Dr. Chris Takimoto, Vice President, Johnson & Johnson Pharma; Dr. Amba Nandakumar, Deputy Director General, ICMR||Investment panel (from left): Moderator Bart Janssens, Partner & Managing Director, BCG; Dr Renu Swarup, Managing Director, BIRAC, Government of India; Utkarsh Palnitkar, Executive Director, Centrum Capital; Dr RuiPing Dong, Senior Vice President, Head of Emerging Markets R&D, Merck & Co.; Dr. Robert King, Senior Partner, Global Healthcare Group, Goldman Sachs; KV Subramaniam, President & CEO, Reliance Life Sciences|
A panel discussion on industry-academia partnerships had panellists debating how such tie ups could drive the next wave of innovation. Dr Barbara Bierer, Senior Vice President Research, Brigham and Women’s Hospital felt that it was “critical” to have a team which will build the partnership. She averred that administrative issues needed to be sorted out in advance so that “the science can be smooth.”
Dr Karen Antman, Dean and Povost, Boston University School of Medicine made that point that health science students needed to be aware of global health issues.
Dr Renu Swarup, Managing Director, Biotechnology Industry Related Assistance Council (BIRAC) informed delegates of the investment schemes to be rolled out by the Department of Biotechnology in the near future, and also made the point that the Government of India did not want to “spread funding too thin.”
In his closing remarks, Chin presented some areas for future discussion. Referring to India’s strengths as identified in the BCG report, he suggested that India could be a great place to re-purpose existing drug molecules as this is a niche area not as attractive for large MNCs. Finally, he said it was important to focus and prioritise investments, rather than investing in too many areas. He concluded by congratulating the organisers on a fruitful Summit and hoped that the USAIC would continue to remain a good communication platform, between all stakeholders, to convert these talk points into solid action.