The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries have shown resilience and determination in the face of the pandemic, continuously evolving and innovating to achieve better outcomes. The industry has not only seen innovations in new vaccine technologies and treatments, but also in the research and development behind the manufacture of those vaccines and treatments. The use of modern technologies to manufacture medicines, to improve scientific methods and to identify novel treatment approaches is rapidly gaining ground.
The past few years have been landmark years for us, both in terms of innovation and growth. Industry has gone digital and technology has improved due to advances in research methods. The quest for better drugs for treatment has certainly prompted drug manufacturers to prioritize the patient-centric approach, opting for targeted methods that ensure improved clinical outcomes. The decentralization of clinical trials and newer digital methods have helped the pharmaceutical industry to change the way they approach data collection. The digitization of the pharmaceutical industry had started long before the pandemic, but the pandemic provided a strong boost.
Pushing for new advances and innovations
Several useful and forward-looking measures have already been implemented to simplify India’s regulatory structure. Government institutions have made commendable progress in developing new policy frameworks, creating an enabling environment for business and working towards realizing the vision of India as a leading innovation-based pharmaceutical hub. This progress is appreciated and welcomed. As an industry, we look forward to complementing these efforts with advanced product development and innovation. Perhaps a helpful move for the industry would be to reward new investments in innovation through various fiscal and non-fiscal measures – from drug development to research-related incentives. This will be crucial to drive innovation.
The Indian pharmaceutical industry is characterized by providing affordable and high-quality medicines to the world. While the country leads the way in manufacturing and supplying generic medicines, it is time to focus our energies on innovation and patents. We are already seeing significant progress on this front – the government is recognizing the importance of self-reliance and technological advances and is doing much through initiatives such as Make in India along with the recent product-linked incentive scheme. We could further strengthen this by promoting local research and development, especially with our young minds, establishing research facilities and creating incentives for industry-related research.
The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across industries – pharma was no exception. The strategy of putting data first has helped pharmaceutical companies create a smooth transition to digitization. In addition to simplifying transactions and drug traceability, the use of blockchain has helped strengthen clinical data security and privacy. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies have relied on cloud security and centralized access systems to keep tabs on patient records and other information. Therefore, pharmaceutical companies can confidently launch digital transformation programs targeting their most pressing needs or application upgrades.
The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) program will significantly improve people’s access to healthcare in a country of a massive 1.4 billion people. NDHM relies heavily on big data to address persistent healthcare issues. The aim is to digitize individual health records by making good use of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. In this way, the data is analyzed to discover disease patterns, predict disease onset and identify seasonal outbreaks, opening up a multitude of opportunities to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of healthcare delivery.
Today, the industry employs around 2.7 million people, makes a significant contribution to the Indian economy and generates an annual trade surplus of over US$13 billion. It is one of the top five sectors in India in terms of net foreign exchange earnings. From the current $44 billion, the pharmaceutical sector hopes to grow to $120-130 billion by 2030, putting India in the top five leagues in terms of value and leading in terms of volume. One of the main motivations for achieving Vision 2030 will be to put innovation at the center and emphasize the value of constant research and development.
Policy framework and investments in R&D
The country has helped create the right regulatory and policy framework to establish and help grow the research-driven biopharmaceutical industry. A greater focus on strengthening this framework can lead to better patient outcomes, greater investments in the pharmaceutical and genomics sectors that enable balanced growth beyond employment, and access to improved industry efficiency and competitiveness. This will go a long way in attracting more biopharmaceutical innovation investment.
Our progress in research and development is inextricably linked to fostering a culture of innovation. Allowing additional provisions to create a stronger IPR ecosystem in the country would be a welcome move to improve India’s ease of doing business index and further boost foreign direct investment in the pharmaceutical sector. Measures to improve business facilitation in the pharmaceutical sector, with a focus on simplification, industry-friendly processes and creating specific regulations to remove bottlenecks, could also encourage investment.
Now is the time to develop breakthrough solutions to complement ‘Make in India’ with a ‘Discover and Innovation in India’ mentality. This would mean promoting frequent and transparent dialogues between all relevant stakeholders and providing competent training to realize the vision of India as a preferred destination for pharmaceutical R&D. Innovation-enabling policies help drive the development of high-quality and innovative medicines for Indian patients. There are unmet medical needs and therapeutic areas that need to be addressed with innovation-driven medicines. The research-based pharmaceutical industry is encouraged by Prime Minister Modi’s view that India’s patent laws should be brought into line with global standards to transform the fifth-largest and Asia’s third-largest economy into a hub for outsourced creative services.
The pandemic provided valuable insights into the pharmaceutical industry’s mobilization capabilities and, more importantly, reinforced the realization that innovation must be prioritized. The impulses in research and development are positive and should continue beyond the pandemic. The Indian pharmaceutical sector is a key industry in terms of size and reach. We also benefit from a diverse demographic, strong digital foundation and production scale. The convergence of technology and medicines should help us develop a new innovation model and bring us closer to our mission of “Discovery and Innovation in India”.
The views expressed above are the author’s own.
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