Express Pharma

Public and private entities need to invest in developing innovation-oriented mindset

Creating a sustainable and credible environment for innovators and ensuring the protection of their innovations/ideas will go a long way in boosting confidence and investment in R&D efforts and ideas, informs KG Ananthakrishnan, DG, OPPI, to Akanki Sharma in an exclusive interaction with regard to the OPPI Annual Summit themed ‘Changing Frontiers of Healthcare Research in a Dynamic and Digitized World’

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Where does the Indian pharma industry stand at present in terms of the value chain, innovation, and R&D?

 The road to responding to any disease is paved with Research and Development (R&D) – from understanding the ailment to responding to and eliminating it. This was further illustrated by the pharma sector’s response towards COVID – from sequencing the virus to developing multiple vaccines and therapies; R&D through collaborations across industry, academia and government stakeholders was the key. India’s commitment to spurring R&D and innovation is reflective of its rankings in the Global Innovation Index 2021. From 81 in 2015, we have moved up to 46th place in 2021. While this may be largely attributable to research in other sectors such as space and IT, the pertinent role of the pharma industry cannot be overlooked.

The sector responded with agility to ensure the continued availability of essential medical solutions in addition to collaborating with stakeholders in developing and ramping up manufacturing of COVID vaccines and medicines, which was instrumental in minimising the otherwise adverse impact of the pandemic across the world and in India. With the focus now shifting towards increasing R&D efforts and to this end, streamlining regulatory pathways, encouraging and incentivising innovators while inviting stakeholders to invest in Indian innovation have been key priorities for the sector.

 The pharma industry is expected to grow from its current size of $42 billion – half of it is exports – to $76 billion by 2030. In fact, with the right approach and policies, we can reach $130 billion in the same period, propelling the economy towards the avowed target of $5 trillion. This will only be possible through a research-led pharma ecosystem which will safeguard against future epidemics and pandemics while propelling industry growth.

This year, the finance minister announced pharma as a sunrise sector in the union budget. What steps are needed to be taken by the industry to achieve and maintain this tag?

 The Indian pharma industry, driven by its strength in the global generics space, has witnessed tremendous growth in the past two decades. While the industry settled comfortably in the niche it carved for itself, the disruption of the pandemic spurred innovation in the sector. From sequencing the virus to repurposing drugs and developing vaccines, the pharma industry responded with agility that prompted India and other major economies to drive the self-sufficiency agenda and recalibrate their global business models. Additionally, the government’s forward-looking initiatives such as the Rs 50,000 crore National Research Foundation (NRF) planned to fund research across science and technology, among others, would further spur innovation.

For India to evolve as an epicentre of biopharma research, however, it is imperative to focus on nurturing high-risk innovation; strengthening government-industry-academia partnerships; as well as providing opportunities for investments in R&D. This is only possible through sustained policy interventions and strategic partnerships which will encourage, recognise, reward and incentivise innovation and R&D.

Undoubtedly, both public and private entities in the Indian pharma space need to invest in developing an innovation-oriented mindset and the allied skills infrastructure to transform the nation into the world’s leading pharma innovation hub. Al