Express Pharma

Can an ‘edge’ of innovation empower pharma industry to scale global success?

Dr Anil Bansal, Former President, Delhi Medical Association, and Senior Joint Secretary, Indian Medical Association, IMA (National), traces down some of the important factors that would need a push to take the Indian pharma industry to greater heights

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The Indian pharma sector’s growth has been sharp and resilient. With its valuation expected to touch $130bn by 2030, not only is the sector entering its golden period, but it also remains to be one of the biggest leaders of vaccines and essential supplies in the global market (by volume). To further make headway and gain ground as an impactful global leader, we need to factor in innovation and R&D critically. This is also essential to be on par with the global curriculum and modernise healthcare.

But where do we currently stand?

Innovation is the need of the hour to take us ahead

The domestic pharma sector has shown immense growth potential and continues to showcase its manufacturing prowess. With an impetus on self-reliance, the industry has scaled newer opportunities in recent years, with the introduction of lucrative PLI schemes and scaling up resources, including setting up medical parks and incentivising domestic production.

To further modernise, the Indian pharma space needs to harness the powers of research and innovation. The 2022 fiscal budget has taken a rightful note of the same, with the pharma and healthcare sector ingeminated as the ‘sunrise’ sector. The slew of investments announced by FM Nirmala Sitharaman has also been highly suggestive of governmental support. The intent to look for newer growth opportunities and prioritised investments isn’t an isolated stance. With the introduction of helpful policy reforms, experts have brought in renewed focus to catalyse R&D changes time and again.

Genome and biotech can define the next 10 years of pharma growth

The unprecedented challenges in the past two years have functioned as a turning point in the sector’s growth trajectory, with new business models, areas of research and drug development coming to the foray. It has also certainly helped companies understand the needs and challenges for innovation, especially since R&D remains to be in the nascent stages of adoption on the domestic front.

When we talk about the ‘sunrise’ sectors, biotech and genomics are rapidly advancing and stipulated to dominate the sector in the coming years. There is a huge market share worth exploring and a big market player like India can certainly tap into this revenue.

Today, the use of biologics has revolutionised several treatment strategies, including cancer and auto-immune diseases. With eight out of the top 10 talked-about molecule drugs said to go off-patent in this decade, it is strategically the best time for large domestic players as ours to strike the iron when it’s hot. Increasing our investment onus in this direction would be an exceptional opportunity to not only maximise the production, but also focus on the development of newer molecules and biosimilars.

Genomics, too, holds enormous potential for improving the state of healthcare and prevention strategies. It has proven to be quite vital in our COVID management plan, especially in tackling the newer variants. However, the genotype-phenotype supportive infrastructure lacks here, which can hinder decision-making and genetic disease detection. In a country that houses over 21 per cent of the world’s disease burden, it remains crucial that we expand our investments. GoI has also strategised investments into the genome sector, with the launch of programmes like ‘Genome India Project’ by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), which aims to collect 10,000 genetic samples across the country to build a reference pool. We need more such projects and targetted investments to tap into the growing sector. Amid expanding our investments, we must also rely on supportive technology to create a fulfilling ecosystem.

Policy support is essential for further growth
The road ahead offers tremendous growth potentials, opportunities as well as unprecedented challenges. While substantial investments to boost local production of core APIs and Drug Intermediates (DIs) have benefitted, Research-Linked Incentives (RLIs) can also act as a helpful gesture for companies to evolve and grow. Innovation bonds and low-cost funds, to promote growth, must also be looked towards, at the government level.

To strengthen the R&D ecosystem, stakeholders also need to work in tandem with the public sector to amass a transformation that benefits the industry financially and qualitatively. We have ample young talent and manpower, and we can channelise them effectively through industry-academia cooperation and national-level policies. We must also have access to modern tech, innovation trends and digitisation, and address any challenges to sustain the momentum and innovation ecosystem.

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