Seven success stories of LSSSDC’s partnerships to fight COVID-19

Zydus Cadila, Cadila Pharma, Biocon, Syngene, Glenmark, Serum Institute of India, Ipca, Strides are using LSSSDC’s programmes to get a steady supply of industry ready skilled manpower

From June 1, India embarked on Unlock 1.0, the first stage of gradually getting back to normal after four national lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmaceutical companies, as part of essential services, were operational during the pandemic, to various degrees.

In fact this was a phase when the programmes run by the Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council (LSSSDC), in partnership with various pharma companies, proved their worth in meeting the sudden requirement for industry ready skilled manpower to run ramped up operations of crucial medicines like hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) or testing kits.

Programmes conducted by LSSSDC include National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), and National Scheduled Castes Finance & Development Corporation (NSFDC)

LSSSDC was set up by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), and is promoted by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in partnership with various stakeholder organisations representing both industry and government stakeholders.

The body is recognised and approved as a sector skill council for the life sciences sector including pharmaceuticals (including AYUSH), biopharmaceutical, and contract research, by NSDC under a mandate from Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

LSSSDC CEO Ranjit Madan gave an overview of the programmes and future plans, saying that in FY20, 48500 candidates were enrolled in skill development programmes (including fresh skilling, apprenticeship and RPL).

Ranjit Madan, CEO, LSSSDC

The target for FY21 is to skill 35000 candidates in these programmes, the dip in numbers being the impact of inactivity in the first half of the year due to COVID-19.

Given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, he predicts that the most in demand programmes will be in manufacturing plant based job roles as a boost in API and medical devices is expected after DoP’s incentivisation programme. Similarly Ayurveda drug formulation manufacturing is expected to get a huge boost.

Considering the demand from Industry, there is expected to be a skill shortage in roles related to manufacturing, quality, engineering and maintenance. Also with so many drugs given fast track approval for usage, the pharmacovigilance activity will be boosted hence he expects to see a demand surge in that area as well.

A major strength of LSSSDC has been its strong Industry connect. This is reflected in Industry involvement in every element of skilling chain—starting from QP, curriculum, content development, through Train the Trainer programme, skilling and apprenticeship, assessment/ certification, through to facilitating placement. The initiatives cover both skilling for fresh hiring, as well assessment of the existing workforce.

Over the span of the past 5-6 years, since inception, the Council has established an enviable bond with a cross section of industry across pharma, biopharma, and contract research segments, covering both SME and large companies.

According to him, most of the IPA member companies (top 24 in Indian industry) are closely involved with LSSSDC in various projects, with over 500 industry organisations associated with the Council. The Council is also closely involved with most of the organisations which are front runners in the current battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

On behalf of the Council, Madan thanks all the major associations in life sciences represented on its governing board for their unstinted support, and the numerous Industry organisations partnering it. He reiterated that in the current challenging situation posed by the pandemic, the Council stands committed to providing firm support to the entire life sciences industry, and especially to the organisations in the forefront in the ensuing battle against Covid-19.

The council shared examples of seven pharma companies which have initiatives with LSSSDC and their success stories of contributing towards the COVID-19 efforts:

1. Zydus Cadila: Ramped up production of HCQ by ten times, gearing up for production of ELISA kits

Ahmedabad based Zydus Cadila ramped up capacity for manufacturing hydroxychloroquine (or HCQ) by nearly 10 times since the outbreak of Covid-19. India manufactures 70 per cent of the world’s supply of HCQ, with Zydus and Ipca Labs being the two biggest players.

Before the pandemic struck, Zydus used to manufacture 2-4 tonnes API every month for domestic supply as well as exports but within April itself, they met their increased domestic target of 20 tonnes API or 10 crore tablets. The target for the month of May is 30 tonnes API or 15 crore tablets, which they are confident of achieving.

More recently, after ICMR rejected rapid testing kits imported from China etc, the Elisa Testing kits have been approved by Council, which will be produced by Zydus. This further entrenches Zydus in the war against Covid-19.

Zydus Cadila has been running skill development programmes in PMKVY, NAPS, NSFDC since 2019. In the last one year Zydus has worked very closely with LSSSDC and has trained more than 800 candidates and have absorbed all candidates who have completed these programmes. The candidates have been employed as machine operators, production chemists, manufacturing assistants, etc which are job roles crucial to drug manufacturing. LSSSDC will continue to be a source of industry ready candidates as apprentices to enhance manufacturing capacity of HCQ.Zydus recently hosted LSSSDC’s last Governing Body meeting at its Corporate Office in Ahmedabad on February 26. Shervil Patel, VCM, Zydus and top leadership of Zydus were present, and Team Zydus shared outcome of 2019/20 skilling interactions with LSSDC, and plans for 2020/21.

2. Cadila Pharma: working to launch immunomodulatory Sepsivac with CSIR in less than two months

Cadila Pharma was one of the very initial partners of LSSSDC in the state of Gujarat. Cadila Pharma has been doing skill development in life sciences job roles like MSR, machine operator and production chemist in collaboration with LSSSDC since the last few years. Cadila has also been one of the active industry partners in Skill India Mission, who has engaged more than 100 LSSSDC certified skill professionals under the NAPs, Govt. of India in its various manufacturing units across the country. Cadila has also run Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) scheme of LSSSDC very successfully, in which LSSSDC has upskilled and certified more than 600 existing emploeyees of its various plants.

At a time when companies and research organisations across the world are racing to find a cure for Covid-19 pandemic, Ahmedabad based Cadila Pharma, in partnership with India’s premier research organisation Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is on the path of a major breakthrough.

After successful testing on four SARS-CoV-2 patients, including one critically ill, the Phase III clinical trials for the immunomodulator, Sepsivac, are underway. And if everything goes as planned, the immunomodulator will be out in the market in less than two months.

Cadila Pharma’s partnership with LSSSDC for skill development programmes is assurance that when their requirement for industry ready candidates once they need to start and scale up manufacturing capabilities will not be an issue.

3. Biocon Pharmaceutical & Syngene: repurposing of itolizumab, emergency use of Cytosorb and developing a PCR-based diagnostic cum serological antibody testing kit

Bengaluru based biotech major Biocon, is working to repurpose their novel monoclonal antibody itolizumab (currently used for psoriasis) to treat the complications caused by Covid-19. In parallel, Biocon has licenced Cytosorb which has been approved by USFDA for emergency treatment of Covid-19. Biocon expects that use of Cytosorb will help in bringing down the mortality rate in Covid-19 cases.

Additionally, Biocon’s subsidiary Syngene International is developing a PCR-based diagnostic cum serological antibody testing kit to identify the real number of people in population who came in contact of a Covid-19 virus as there are a number of people who did not show any symptom and recovered from Covid-19.

Biocon and Syngene both are leading industry partners with LSSSDC in PMKVY RPL BICE program where a good number of existing employees of Biocon and Syngene have been assessed and certified for their skills based on National Occupational Standards. Biocon and Syngene participated in the programme to ensure the quality of skills for their existing workforce.

A total of 2565 candidates from Biocon and Syngene have been assessed under RPL till date. More are expected to be assessed and certified this year, and plans are afoot to support them in apprenticeship as well

4. Glenmark Pharma: developed and conducting clinical trials of anti-retroviral drug Favipiravir

In yet another indication of innovation to successfully treat Covid-19, Mumbai based Glenmark Pharmaceuticals has developed anti-retroviral drug Favipiravir and has got approval from Drug Controller General (India) for its clinical trial to assess the product in around 150 Covid-19 patients with mild to moderate infection. Up on successful trial Favipiravir could become a potential treatment for Covid-19 patients.

Glenmark is a lead Industry partner with LSSSDC since its inception- and has already got its PAN India manufacturing plant based employees assessed and certified by LSSSDC in year 2017-20 to ensure the skill standards of its employees are at par to national occupational standards.

The last batch assessed was in early of March 2020 at Glenmark’s Goa plant for which the certificates will be generated post normalcy from Skill India Portal. Glenmark has also currently engaged 50 apprentices under LSSSDC’s optional trades, 43 apprentices out of them are at the Goa plants and rest at its Aurangabad plant.

5. Serum Institute of India: manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, testing kits

Pune based, Serum Institute of India is in advanced stage of manufacturing a vaccine for COVID-19 in partnership with Oxford University, which is undergoing human trial.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, has shared that production is being started so that the vaccine can be made available for use as soon as the trials are successfully concluded.

Serum have recently partnered with Mylab and will be ramping up the production of COVID-19 testing kits, taking it from 1.5 lakh units per week to 20 lakh units per week. To reduce dependency on imported products to manufacture testing kits in association with Mylabs, they have additionally partnered with Syngene International for this purpose.

LSSSDC has supported Serum Institute of India Pvt Limited through NAPS at their Pune Facility in job roles like manufacturing assistant, through a Pune based NSDC accredited TPA (Yashaswi Academy for Skills). More than 50 plus trainees are undergoing training at the facility of Serum Institute of India.

6. Strides Pharma Science Limited (Strides)

Strides Pharma Science Limited (Strides),r recently announced that it has developed and commercialised favipiravir antiviral tablets. The product is a generic version of Avigan of Toyama Chemical, Japan.

Favipiravir is a complex to make antiviral medication that was initially developed to treat influenza in Japan. In February 2020, post the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19), Favipiravir was studied in China and several other countries as an experimental treatment of Covid-19. The drug has demonstrated positive outcomes, including a reduction in the duration of Covid-19 and improved lung conditions for the patients. Strides have developed favipiravir tablets in 400mg and 200mg strengths for convenient dosage administration. The product is currently being exported to GCC countries to treat patients under their treatment program for Covid-19. Strides will also immediately apply to Indian Drug Authorities to commence necessary studies and make the drug available to Indian patients expeditiously.

Strides Pharma Life Sciences is also associated with LSSSDC as an Industry partner, in the promotion of Skill Development initiative of Govt of India. LSSSDC is supporting Strides through both apprenticeships and RPL. Strides Pharma hired 16 apprentices at their unit in Bangaluru, Karnataka under machine operator job role under NON-NAPS category and is planning to take at least the same number at its Puducherry site under NAPS Scheme. Currently, more than 300+ employees of Strides have been certified by LSSSDC under the PMKVY RPL -4 BICE Scheme of Govt of India in various job roles of LSSSDC.

7. IPCA: ramping up production of HCQ

As one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of over a dozen APIs, including HCQ, LSSSDC has been working closely with IPCA management to assess and certify its workforce. During 2019/20, a total of 2166 assessment were completed under RPL (Best in Class Employers) initiative of GOI. This was across the various verticals of manufacturing, QC and packaging etc. at the various IPCA plants PAN India. There are plans afoot to engage further in RPL, as also apprenticeship—during the coming year.

(Click link below to view LSSSDC certified skill professional working in IPCA plant amidst COVID)

Thus as pharma and vaccine companies ramp up production of existing and new product lines, LSSSDC’s programmes will ensure that they have the skilled manpower to meet their targets to supply life saving medicines, vaccines and testing kits to India as well as across the world.

BioconCadila PharmaCOVID-19GlenmarkipcaLife Sciences Sector Skill Development CouncilLSSSDCSerum Institute of IndiaStridesSyngeneZydus Cadila
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