India is a world leader in the pharmaceutical and biomedical sectors but unfortunately the patients are still denied safe and quality medicines as desired by the citizens. India accounts for 21% of the world’s global burden of disease. India is recognized as the pharmacy to the world for our generic medicines, but we are yet to make a mark in biopharmaceutical innovation. It is time for India to harness its capabilities and unlock its potential for biomedical science and innovation. We need to increase the investment, create the right policy environment, and make the administrative effort required for meaningful innovation. We can extend ‘Make in India’ to ‘Innovate in India’. Our scientists and universities should also be incentivised so that we attract the brightest minds to carry out cutting-edge research in priority areas, especially in the health sector.
A Multi-Stakeholder Roundtable on “Unlocking India’s Potential in Biomedical Science & Innovation to Improve Health Care in India and for the World” was convened last year in Delhi by the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) India Initiative in partnership with the Indian Alliance of Patient Groups (IAPG) and the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) India. The roundtable objectives were: to deliberate on biomedical science and biopharmaceutical innovation including global advancements in developing and delivering new ways to detect, treat and cure disease; and to discuss and highlight the top biomedical science and innovation today in India and identify the gaps that must be bridged to move up the value chain in biomedical research. PSM India developed a White Paper reflecting the input of the participating experts for presentation to the Government of India.
The report suggests- India can increase its sectoral competitiveness in innovation through a more robust IPR regime. Innovations are important from several viewpoints, most important among them is the role of innovation in driving economic growth. Apart from this, innovations also help companies overcome problems to benefit consumers. Technological innovation is the basis of growth and competitiveness of nations. Several countries have invested in R&D efforts and have benefitted from growth and development of industries around these inventions that became innovations in the long-term time frame in the interest of patients and improved accessibility. At a sectoral level of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, there is a need to understand what has worked for India and what has not. The best friend of a consumer is competition. Government initiatives and policies must enable creation of trust in the system which will help in greater innovation. Robust competitiveness connects industrial’ strategy and rivalry, demand conditions, related research, and additional support for industries – all of which is essential for creating levels of shared values and for interlinking the various stakeholders in the system. Greater competitiveness created through an interlinked system will promote greater productivity.
Strengthening India’s pharmaceutical innovation ecosystem across multiple dimensions is important to foster better cooperation and collaboration among the many stakeholders that contribute to building a vibrant, innovation-driven pharmaceutical industry in India – government, industry, academia, financial, the medical professional communities,and civil society including patient groups. Wherever we invest public funds on strengthening R&D centers and biotech clusters, we must establish a single entity made accountable for performance of public R&D centers and facilitate better tech transfer infrastructure and collaboration among academia, research centers, and industry.
Several recommendations have emerged from the multi-stakeholder roundtable such as improving availability of data for research enabled through implementation of EHR (electronic health records) standards and certification of EHR products, increasing the variety of R&D financing resources to encourage and supporting an increase in pharmaceutical R&D. This can be achieved through various financing schemes such as subsidies for start-ups focusing on R&D, adopting healthcare financing policies that improve coverage for primary health care and increase penetration of health care insurance programs. Improve the education and skills level of the workforce to meet the needs of the domestic and global pharmaceutical industry by introducing new national training programs with expanded access to grants and scholarships. Develop guidelines to facilitate knowledge and technology transfer to bridge the gaps between the discovery, development and commercialization of innovative drug products. Strengthen the regulatory framework to streamline and expedite the development and launch of new products that are benchmarked with internationally available practices and increase resources for the regulatory agencies.
Only a healthy nation can aspire to be a prosperous nation. Although India has made rapid strides towards the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, there is still much to do.Pro-innovation policies in India will help to advance the development of innovative medicines and offer new hope to Indian patients. Life-saving and life-prolonging drugs are necessary to cure deadly diseases, but patients also need new drugs and solutions for evolving disease profiles. I sincerely hope the report will lead us on the path of progress, bringing innovation-driven preventions, treatments and cures to patients and contributing to the Prime Minister’s vision of a modern and developed India.