Supporting research and innovation for pharmaceutical growth in India

On the shelves of pharmacy stores around the world are drugs with Indian labels, made by some of the globe's and region's largest and most innovative pharmaceutical companies. This is because the nation's pharmaceutical industry has been on a steady rise for decades and has now grown to become the world's biggest supplier of generics (accounting for 20% of global supply) and vaccines (supplying 50% of global demand). Today, the market is valued at roughly $50 billion and half of that is derived from exports.

However, there is still room for improvement and further growth, with projections valuing the industry at $130 billion by 2030. The mission of the government to transform India into the "Pharmacy of the World" also adds impetus to that growth trajectory, coupled with the Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative which seeks to promote domestic manufacturing and industrial growth. While these are great plans and policies, words must be matched with actions to put India on the right pedestal.

Government interventions and policies for improved research and innovation

Research and innovation are a twin component that has been identified as a growth propellant for the sector. This is because they can trigger both numerical and qualitative growth in the pharma industry. On the part of the government, the establishment and rehabilitation of research institutes is one way they're supporting research and innovation in the sector. This includes the different colleges of pharmaceutical research in several states and Union territories, as well as the strengthening of the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER).

A recent policy to equip several centres of excellence to promote research in moonshot areas in the pharma industry, as announced by the Department of Pharmaceuticals' Joint Secretary, N Yuvaraj, is also worthy of note, as it will be implemented through a publicprivate collaboration. According to the announcement, the project will target the development of areas such as infectious diseases, precision medicine, disease management, and the application of artificial intelligence in pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, the Union budget contains a component for support of faculty in medical colleges in selected universities across the country.

The push for continued public-private partnership has also yielded tremendous results in the pharma space. Asides Pharma City, there are plans by the Indian government to establish three other bulk drug parks in the country, and the government has made it clear that the private sector isn't just a part of these conversations, but a key partner in their implementation. The Production-linked Incentive (PLI) scheme is another way the government is showing this collaboration, with at least 55 pharma companies slated to receive incentives and awards.

Closely tied to the PLI Scheme is the Research-linked Incentive (RLI) scheme which is specifically targeted at funding research in the pharmaceutical sector, among other areas. The scheme is set to pursue an agenda for full automation in the sector by supporting academia linkages and institutional research. Apart from dovetailing into the manufacturing of new drugs, it is hoped that the PLI and RLI schemes will support India's mission to move away from dependency on China for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and Key Starting Materials (KSMs).

Building the world's pharmacy hub in India

The target for the Indian government is to build a $500 billion pharma industry by 2047. Though ambitious, the current actions of the administration, along with the resilience of operators — led by innovative Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisations (CDMOs) — gives a sense of urgency and determination towards building a world-class pharma industry that won't just be the world's biggest supplier, but also a trailblazer in innovative pharmaceutical solutions for simple and complex medical conditions.