partnerships grow even during the global economic slowdown
US-India BioPharma and Healthcare Summit, an annual summit organized by
the USA-India Chamber of Commerce which brings together all
stakeholders of the sector to facilitate trade and investments in
US-India corridor, had attracted over 300 senior biotech,
pharmaceuticals, medical devices and academic leaders this year.
Over 75 percent of discovery heads who participated in the annual
Biopharma and Healthcare Summit felt the environment for drug discovery
research collaboration between US and India has increased in the last
In his opening remarks, Karun Rishi, president of the
USA-India Chamber of Commerce applauded the efforts of the Government
of India to make the country an innovation hub by 2020 and termed it as
a bold initiative. Rishi also added that it will be feasible and
realistic only when all the stakeholders are engaged and work together
to fulfill this goal. Decision making and the implementation process
have to be at a faster pace. He also stressed the need for greater
industry-academic partnerships to foster innovation. There is an urgent
need for partnerships between the US biopharma industry and Indian
academia and between Indian industry and US academic institutions.
“We have created an ecosystem to bring together all
stakeholders: industry, investors, academia and policy makers. This has
become the only biopharma and healthcare summit in the world that
attracts the largest number of senior stake holders from the US and
India at one location every year. Participants’ mood was very
upbeat,” observed Rishi.
Panel discussions conducted at the summit covered areas like drug
discovery, clinical research, funding innovation, merger and
acquisition trends, and industry-academic partnerships. Discovery and
clinical research heads of major biopharma companies participated in
the summit. The summit saw representation from major
companies like Amgen, Bristol Myers & Squibb, Elli Lilly
& Company, Pfizer, Merck & Co, Biogen Idec, Genzyme,
Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Schering Plough, Novartis,
Reliance Life Sciences, Jubilant, Aurigene, Orchid, Suven, GVK, Sanofi
Avantis. Other participants include academic leaders from 20 medical
and public health schools and over 30 life sciences focused venture
capitalists and private equity firms.
Dr Martin Mackay, president, global R&D, Pfizer, in his Keynote
- There is a great willingness to collaborate in India.
- Indian companies have great ability to adapt to western
- There is a huge medical need in India, especially for
Dr Mackay noted, “This is the golden age for drug discovery.
The availability of tools, technologies, manpower and global access to
develop products that are needed to treat health not just in the US but
on a global scale are enhancing drug discovery.”
Many biopharma companies spend their R&D investment in brick
and mortar. Partnership model helps in avoiding duplicating this
expense and helps to focus investment on pure R&D. Pfizer is
working with partners in Asia on specific programs specific to Asia and
According to Dr Mackay, “The key challenge in drug discovery
is to make medicines available globally and at affordable prices. The
task for the R&D head is develop medicines that the patients
can use. So the model has to change.”
Dr William Chin, vice president, discovery research and clinical
investigation, Eli Lilly, felt the pharma industry is under siege with
flood of patent expiries, higher safety hurdles and pricing pressure.
According to Dr Chin, there is too much clinical data available in the
world, but the challenge lies in converting that data into knowledge
for drug discovery. India with its IT strengths can play a vital role.
Dr John Thompson of Vertex Pharmaceuticals felt the need for open
source-based research. Dr Thompson urged for balance between
opportunity and purpose for neglected diseases like tuberculosis where
one-third of the world is infected with it. Purpose from Indian point
is important and the purpose-driven research leads to opportunity.
Government support is needed for tackling neglected diseases in India.
Dr Joe Smith, vice president at Johnson & Johnson said,
“India can be a major center for innovation globally. Johnson
& Johnson doesn’t view India as an emerging market.
Dr Smith felt the infectious innovation can come from India.
J&J is looking at ways to engage India. The company has spent
$8 billion on R&D globally and is working at creating academic
partnerships in India.”
Investors who participated at the summit observed that pharma has been
the biggest creator of wealth whereas biotechnology has been a biggest
looser for investors. There is an opportunity to tap the corporate
venture funds of large pharma companies.
KV Subramaniam, CEO of Reliance Life Sciences felt that corporate
funding will be available along with other capital sources but
corporate investor will be more prudent in investing their funds.
“Investments in innovative Indian companies are considered
risky. To spur investments in emerging companies, there is a need for
local venture capital firms syndicating their investments. There is an
opportunity for private equity and VC investors to partner with the
government to invest in healthcare infrastructure and innovation,
especially in the current resource constrained global
economy,” said Subramaniam.
Nobel Laureate Prof. Sidney Altman, Dr Barry Bloom of Harvard School of
Public Health and Dr Michael Rosenblatt, dean, Tufts Medical School,
stressed on the need for greater investments in education and public
health in India. About 80 percent of ideas used in biotech and physical
sciences came from academia and were later picked up by the industry.
To support the industry, India has to increase the quantity and quality
of human resources. Challenges are enormous but India has the
capability and potential to deliver.
Representing Department of Pharmaceuticals, Paresh Johri, Deputy
Secretary reiterated Government of India’s plan to promote
innovation and R&D in pharmaceuticals. Making India a pharma
innovation hub by 2020 can create five lakh additional jobs. Department
of Pharmaceuticals has submitted a proposal to the PMO to create a fund
to invest $1-$2 billionevery year till 2020 to fund pharma