India launches $250 mn national biopharmaceutical mission | health | Hindustan Times
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India launches $250 mn national biopharmaceutical mission

The National biopharmaceutical mission will provide an ecosystem for researchers and entrepreneurs to develop their products.

health Updated: Jun 30, 2017 18:59 IST
Harsh Vardhan, science and technology minister, launched the National Biopharmaceutical mission on Friday.
Harsh Vardhan, science and technology minister, launched the National Biopharmaceutical mission on Friday. (PTI File Photo)

India launched the National Biopharmaceutical Mission on Friday, a $250 million dollar initiative, that includes a $125 million loan from the World Bank. “This is going to be a game changer for the biopharmaceutical industry,” science and technology minister, Harsh Vardhan, said at the launch. Ultimately the goal is to “change the face of the health sector.”

The country currently serves only 2.8% of the global biopharmaceutical market. The goal is to expand India’s market share to 5% by 2022. The thrust areas for the mission are vaccine development, biotherapeutics, diagnostics and development of medical devices.

“Indian pharmaceutical industry, through the link between academia and industry, will move from picking low hanging fruit from other contexts and making good businesses, to being Indian Intellectual Property-driven,” Vijay Raghavan, secretary, department of biotechnology (DBT), said.

There is an inter-ministerial steering committee that provides oversight of the mission since the mission hopes to encourage cooperation between the various ministries.

It is an uphill task for any new company to break into the market because of the dominance of existing players. The mission will create an ecosystem to support researchers and entrepreneurs in this space by providing shared infrastructure, financial support and also encouraging exchange of ideas among stakeholders.

In the health sector, there are many things that are not affordable to us, there are many things that come from abroad, Harsh Vardhan noted. He cited the example of the cervical cancer vaccine, an expensive vaccine that India imports. Indian researchers are also working on an indigenous variety of a dengue vaccine, that is a menace for much of India’s population.

The target is to help in the development of 6-10 new products over five years, which is the current life of the mission. “We are not considering it only as a five year mission, in five years we will be able to get products, but we are developing an ecosystem for a continuous pipeline of products,” Renu Swarup, managing director of BIRAC, a Public Sector Enterprise under the DBT, that is leading and coordinating the initiative.

“People think all it needs for a medical product to succeed is that it is a good idea and technology,” Raghavan said, explaining that, “this is not all it takes for a product to come into the market.” That there were many impediments to infrastructure, finances, channels for them to develop product ideas and bring them to commercial scale-up stage.

This is the first time World Bank is helping in a project to strengthen the R&D activities in any country. The ministry assured reporters that just because the mission is receiving funding from the World Bank does not mean that the institution will dominate the decision-making. The minister said that he hopes that partnering with World Bank would allow scientists and entrepreneurs in India to tap into a global network.