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India on the verge of a biotech breakthrough

Habil Khorakiwala, Chairman, Wockhardt, speaks about World Health Day to Suprotip Ghosh.

india Updated: Apr 07, 2006 15:21 IST

April 7 is World Health Day, and Wockhardt has been involved with the healthcare industry in the private sector for more than four decades. Recently, they have been asked by the Gujarat government to take up the management of a hospital in Palanpur, near Ahmedabad. In an interview with Suprotip Ghosh, Habil Khorakiwala, Chairman, Wockhardt, speaks about World Health Day, his plans in Special Economic Zones, about India’s strides in healthcare, and about private-public participation in the sector.

What do you think about Special Economic Zones for biotech and R&D?
 

Special Economic Zones are a natural extension of our company. We are going to develop a SEZ. The plans are in its initial stages, and once we are set, a new R&D facility would come up there.

How would you rate India’s progress in healthcare, standing today?

There are two perspectives here. In the last 50 years, we have made significant progress. Life expectancy has increased from 37 to 65 years. Infant mortality has come down from 150 to 64 per thousand. Death rates have come down from 25 per thousand to eight. There is decreasing cost and increased availability of healthcare in the country. I would say public health is still a concern. India was spending 3 per cent on healthcare in the first five-year plan, which has gone up to 4.5 per cent today.

Have public-private partnerships been able to change the face of healthcare in the country?

In the last fifteen years, there has been a major change with the emergence of professional and corporate hospitals. The quality, I would say, has surely improved. Additionally, now we have different types of coverage in terms of health insurance. Earlier there was only Employees State Insurance. Today, we have private insurance and corporate cover ing. So there are marked differences in spending patterns, too.

What about spending by government and other organisations?

In the field of private healthcare, investments are going up, while government spending is going down. Wockhardt is itself involved in a big way in this.

What are your views on biotechnology, given that nine out of the next 10 blockbusters are said to be biotech drugs?

Well, we are still in rudimentary stages of development for biotechnology. However, I believe that the biotech industry has put major efforts in the past few years. We are on the verge of a biotechnology breakthrough, and these would come out of India in the coming few years.