Is Drug Innovation As Critical As Access To Medicines For All? [Augmented By A Video]

To make important medicines available to all in a sustainable way, the renowned philosopher Thomas Pogge in this very interesting video clipping titled “Medicines For The 99 Percent” suggested the following three simple, yet critical, steps to effectively run the healthcare system of any nation with a cost-effective and patient-centric approach:

  • Access to important medicines for all
  • A robust drug innovation model to meet the unmet needs of patients
  • Transparent and efficient systems to make medicines affordable to all, eliminating wastage of all kinds

To translate this process into reality Pogge proposed an out-of-box model, not just to incentivize companies for drug innovation, but also to produce those drugs in a cost-effective way . In his submission, Pogge recommended a US$ 6 billion ‘Health Impact Fund’ to revolutionize the way medicines are developed and sold. He strongly argued that the value of an innovative drug should always be ascertained by its differential “Health Impact” on patients over the equivalent available generics in the respective disease areas.

As you will see in the video, the model is interesting and deserves wholehearted support from all stakeholders, despite possible resistance from some powerful quarters prompted by vested interests.

Drug innovation and access to medicines:

As the good old saying goes, “Health is Wealth”. When a person falls sick, regaining health is all-important. Medicines play a very critical role there, for all. In the ongoing battle against various types of diseases, addressing unmet needs of the patients is also equally important. For this reason, drug innovation plays just as critical a role.

However, it is now a well-known fact that medicines, as such, are not very expensive to manufacture on a relative yardstick. Abundant availability of cheaper generic medicines, post-patent expiry, with as much as  90 percent price erosion over the concerned patented drug price, would vindicate this point.

Current R&D model:

Astronomical mark-ups on the cost of goods for the innovative-patented drugs coming out of the current R&D model, restrict access to these medicines mostly to rich people of both poor and rich countries of the world, depriving majority of the have-nots. Although in an ideal situation, all these medications should be accessible to those who need them the most.

Is the model sustainable?

Innovator companies attribute ‘astronomical’ high prices of patented drugs to hefty R&D expenditure, which probably includes high cost of failures too. Unfortunately, despite ongoing raging debates, R&D expense details are still held very close to the chest by the innovator companies, with almost total lack of transparency. Many experts, therefore, believe that this opaque, skewed and unsustainable drug R&D model of the global pharma majors needs a radical makeover now, as you would yourself see by clicking on the ‘video clipping’, as mentioned above

To ensure full access to important drugs for all, there are other R&D or innovation models too. Unfortunately, none of those appears to be financially as lucrative to the innovator companies as the one that they are currently following, thus creating a challenging logjam in the inclusive process of drug innovation.

Are Pharmaceutical R&D expenses overstated?

Some experts in this area argue that pharmaceutical R&D expenses are overstated, as the real costs are much less.

An article titled “Demythologizing the high costs of pharmaceutical research”, published by the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2011 indicated that the total cost from the discovery and development stages of a new drug to its market launch was around US$ 802 million in the year 2000. This was worked out in 2003 by the ‘Tuft Center for the Study of Drug Development’ in Boston, USA.

However, in 2006 this figure increased by 64 per cent to US$ 1.32 billion, as reported by a large pharmaceutical industry association of the United States, though with dubious credibility as considered by many.

The authors of the above article had also mentioned that the following factors were not considered while working out the 2006 figure of US$ 1.32 billion:

▪   Tax exemptions that the companies avail for investing in R&D

▪   Tax write-offs that amount to taxpayers’ contributing almost 40 percent of the R&D cost

▪   Cost of basic research should not have been included as those are mostly undertaken       by public funded universities or laboratories

The article observed that ‘half the R&D costs are inflated estimates of profits that companies could have made, if they had invested in the stock market instead of R&D and include exaggerated expenses on clinical trials’.

“High R&D costs have been the industry’s excuses for charging high prices”:

In line with this deliberation, in the same article the authors reinforce the above point, as follows:

“Pharmaceutical companies have a strong vested interest in maximizing figures for R&D as high research and development costs have been the industry’s excuse for charging high prices. It has also helped generating political capital worth billions in tax concessions and price protection in the form of increasing patent terms and extending data exclusivity.”

The study concludes by highlighting that “the real R&D cost for a drug borne by a pharmaceutical company is probably about US$ 60 million.”

Should Pharmaceutical R&D move away from the traditional model?

Echoing philosopher Thomas Pogge’s submission, another critical point to ponder today is:

Should the pharmaceutical R&D now move away from its traditional comfort zone of expensive one company initiative to a much less charted frontier of sharing drug discovery involving many players?

If this overall collaborative approach gains broad acceptance and then momentum sooner, with active participation of all concerned, it could lead to substantial increase in R&D productivity at a much lesser expenditure, eliminating wastage by reducing the cost of failures significantly, thus benefiting the patients community at large.

Choosing the right pathway in this direction is more important today than ever before, as the R&D productivity of the global pharmaceutical industry, in general, keeps going south and that too at a faster pace.

Making drug innovation sustainable: 

Besides Thomas Pogge’s model with ‘Health Impact Fund’ as stated above, there are other interesting drug R&D models too. In this article, I shall focus on two examples:

Example I:

A July 2010 study of Frost & Sullivan reports: “Open source innovation increasingly being used to promote innovation in the drug discovery process and boost bottom-line”.

The concept underscores the urgent need for the global pharmaceutical companies to respond to the challenges of high cost and low productivity in their respective R&D initiatives, in general.

The ‘Open Innovation’ model assumes even greater importance today, as we have noted above, to avoid huge costs of R&D failures, which are eventually passed on to the patients again through the drug pricing mechanism.

‘Open Innovation’ model, as they proposed, will be most appropriate to even promote highly innovative approaches in the drug discovery process bringing many brilliant scientific minds together from across the world.

The key objective of ‘Open Innovation’ in pharmaceuticals is, therefore, to encourage drug discovery initiatives at a much lesser cost, especially for non-infectious chronic diseases or the dreaded ailments like Cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer, Multiple Sclerosis, including many neglected diseases of the developing countries, making innovative drugs affordable even to the marginalized section of the society.

Android smart phones with huge commercial success are excellent examples of ‘Open Source Innovation’. So, why not replicate the same successful model of inclusive innovation in the pharmaceutical industry too?

Example II - “Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP)” initiative:

This laudable initiative has come to the fore recently in he arena of collaborative R&D, where 10 big global pharma majors reportedly decided in February 2014 to team up with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the United States in a ‘game changing’ initiative to identify disease-related molecules and biological processes that could lead to future medicines.

This Public Private Partnership (PPP) for a five-year period has been named as “Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP)”. According to the report, this US federal government-backed initiative would hasten the discovery of new drugs in cost effective manner focusing first on Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, and two autoimmune disorders: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The group considered these four disease areas among the largest public-health threats, although the span of the project would gradually expand to other diseases depending on the initial outcome of this project.

“A Social Brain Is a Smarter Brain”: 

As if to reinforce the concept, a recent HBR Article titled “A Social Brain Is a Smarter Brain” also highlighted, “Open innovation projects (where organizations facing tricky problems invite outsiders to take a crack at solving them) always present cognitive challenges, of course. But they also force new, boundary-spanning human interactions and fresh perspective taking. They require people to reach out to other people, and thus foster social interaction.” This articulation further reinforces the relevance of a new, contemporary and inclusive drug innovation model for greater patient access.


Taking these points into perspective, I reckon, there is a dire need to make the process of offering innovative drugs at affordable prices to all patients absolutely robust and sustainable as we move on.

Philosopher Thomas Pogge, in his above video clipping, has also enunciated very clearly that all concerned must ensure that medications get to those who need them the most. He has also shown a win-win pathway in form of creation of a “Health Impact Fund’ to effectively address this issue. There are other inclusive, sustainable and cost effective R&D models too, such as Open Innovation and Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), to choose from.

That said, a paradigm shift in the drug innovation model can materialize only when there will be a desire to step into the uncharted frontier, coming out of the comfort zone of much familiar independent money spinning silos of drug innovation. Dove tailing business excellence with the health interest of all patients, dispassionately, would then be the name of the game.

Bringing this transformation sooner is extremely important, as drug innovation would continue to remain as critical as access to important medicines for all, in perpetuity.

However, to maintain proper checks and balances between drug innovation and access to medicines for all, the value of an innovative drug should always be ascertained by its differential ‘Health Impact’ on patients over equivalent available generics in that disease area and NOT by how much money, including the cost of R&D failures, goes behind bringing such drugs to the market, solely driven by commercial considerations.

By: Tapan J. Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.



Reaping rich harvest with less moaning and bagful of creative ideas from emerging Rural Markets of India

About 72 percent of the population and 135 million households of India live in the rural areas of the country. Many of them are poor.

Definition of ‘Rural’:

Agencies of the Government of India like, National Council of Applied Economic (NCAER) and Insurance Regulatory and Development Agency (IRDA) have defined the terminology ‘rural’ as “villages with a population of less than 5000 with 75 percent population engaged in agriculture…”

Rural India is no longer an agrarian economy:

A recent study by ‘Credit Suisse’ indicates that rural India is no longer a pure agrarian economy, depending mostly on the quality of rain falls during monsoon season. This has been corroborated by the fact that the contribution of agriculture to the total GDP of rural India has come down from 50 percent, as registered during the turn of this century, to its current level of about 25 percent.

This transition of rural India from agriculture to industry and services, is now taking place at a much faster pace than ever before, as the rural economy is getting increasingly attuned to the national economic cycle, creating more and more non-agrarian jobs in those areas. Most of the incremental job creation is taking place in manufacturing, construction, retail and wholesale trade and also in the community services.

Currently, 55% of India’s GDP from manufacturing comes from rural India as the ‘Credit Suisse’ report highlights. As a result, since April 2000, per capita GDP in rural India has grown at a much faster pace than in urban India.

This welcoming change, in turn, is expected to play a key role in significantly improving the consumption of reasonably affordable healthcare, besides many other products and services, in the rural India.

Rural share of GDP growing faster:

Since last several years with various rural reform initiatives of the Government, the hinterlands of India have started growing faster than ever before.

A National Council of Applied Economic (NCAER) Research survey, indicating rural share of India’s GDP improved from 40 percent in 1980 to 54 percent in 2010, vindicates this point. At the same time, aggregate rural consumption (US$ Bn) increased from 94 in 1985 to 203 in 2005 and is expected to reach 350 in 2015. (Source: National Statistical Offices, UN, Euro Monitor International, Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India).

A new growth opportunity:

According to McKinsey Report, rural India currently accounts for 21 percent of the Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM). It is interesting to note from the NCAER report that both urban and rural India spend 5% of their total income on health.

Rural growth drivers:

McKinsey estimates that by 2015, upcoming smaller towns and the rural markets will contribute as much to the growth of IPM as the metros and top tier towns.

The following factors are expected to drive the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in the rural India:

  • Large patient base
  • Increasing overall income (over 1 percent of the total population coming above the poverty line every year)
  • Increasing number of middle class in rural areas
  • Disease pattern gradually shifting to chronic ailments
  • Improving healthcare infrastructure with increasing Government spend on the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)
  • Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), which is the National Health Insurance Scheme for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, will provide health cover to increasing number of BPL households
  • New initiatives of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) like, “Janaushadhi”  scheme will provide low cost quality medicines to boost the uptake

Rural market size:

The rural markets contribute about 21 percent of U.S$ 12.5 billion pharmaceutical market in India (AIOCD-AWACS, February, 2012). As reported in ‘India Pharma 2015’ of McKinsey, by 2015 rural pharma market size is expected to reach U.S$ 4.8 billion from U.S$1.2 billion in 2005.

Currently, rural markets are dominated by ailments related to various types of infections. As stated above, this disease pattern is expected to change by the next decade to non-infectious chronic illnesses, like diabetes, cardiac, cancer, hypertension etc.

Increasing Pharmaceutical growth trend in the rural markets:

In 2011 the rural markets of India registered a growth of around 23 percent over the previous year. This decent pace of growth is expected to continue in the next decades.

MAT Dec 2011 (INR M)

MAT Dec 2011 (Saliency)

Growth %

Indian Pharma Market




















(Source: IMS Town Class Data – Dec MAT 2011)

Moreover, McKinsey Report forecasts that rural markets will contribute around 27 percent of the total consumption of India by 2020 and by 2015, rural India will account for over 24 percent of the domestic pharmaceutical market from its current level of 21 percent.

Charting the uncharted frontier:

It has been reported that growth rate of the rural markets of many companies have more than doubled due to their rural marketing focus. Possibly as a testimony to this new business opportunity, one can now see:

1. Novartis with its “Arygoya Parivar” initiative is rolling out a tailor-made program for rural areas of seven states of India, to start with. They have developed special packs of essential medicines with special prices to reach out to the rural population. To create disease awareness within the target population and also for disease prevention and treatment, Novartis has deployed health educators for this project.

2. Sanofi has initiated a dedicated rural marketing initiative called ‘Prayas’.  The initiative is aimed at ‘bridging the diagnosis‐treatment gap through a structured continuing education program for rural doctors across India’.

The Company says, “through ‘Prayas’, specialists from semi‐urban areas will share latest medical knowledge and clinical experience with general practitioners based in smaller towns and villages in the interiors of India”. Their second strategy, reportedly, is for improving healthcare access by making quality medicines available at affordable prices for the rural patients.

3. Novo Nordisk is currently engaged in screening patients for diabetes in the rural areas of Goa with mobile clinics. This initiative is expected to create widespread awareness about diabetes and early detection of the disease, so as to prevent early onset of the disease related complications.

4. Eli Lilly developed a program along with the Self-Employed Women’s Association in Ahmedabad to educate and encourage rural patients suffering from tuberculosis to go for treatment.

5. Elder pharmaceuticals created a dedicated 750 strong rural marketing sales force called Elvista.

6. Cadila Pharma has set up a dedicated rural marketing arm called Explora’.

7. Alembic Chemicals created a rural business unit called Maxis’.

These are just a few illustrations and not an exhaustive list. However, the issue is whether the rural marketing initiative will continue to remain an experimental one to the pharmaceutical companies in India or will get translated into a decent long term strategic business move.

“The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid”:

The iconic management guru C K Prahalad in his well-known book titled, “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” wrote:

“If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up.” I am not sure whether the above profound observation is encouraging the pharmaceutical companies to explore the rural India with the wings of courage, where majority of the Indian populations live and most of them are poor.

A ‘Pot of Gold’ in the rural markets?

Currently around 20 million middle class households live in over 6,00,000 villages of India. This is almost the same as the number of middle class households residing in urban India and holds the key to significant increase of healthcare spending in rural India.

Rural market-entry strategy:

Instead of transplanting the urban marketing strategy into rural India, some companies, as mentioned above, have taken the community-welfare route to make the rural population aware of particular disease segments like, tuberculosis, diabetes, cardiovascular, waterborne diseases etc. together with the treatments available for such ailments.

These value added marketing strategies offer benefits to both the patients and the company concerned. The local medical practitioners, in turn, are also benefited as they get increasing number of patients in their clinics through such disease awareness community program by the pharmaceutical companies.

Key challenges:

There are some key challenges for effective rural penetration by the Indian pharmaceutical industry, as follows:

• Inadequate basic healthcare infrastructure. Only 20 percent of total healthcare infrastructure of the country is in rural areas where over 72 percent population of the country lives. • Density of doctors per 10,000 populations in India is just 6. A large number of villages in India do not have any doctor. As per AC Nielson study, an average rural Indian has to travel about 6 km to visit a doctor. A Medical Representative will require traveling about 250 to 300 km every day just to meet about 10 doctors and 4 dealers. • Many villages are not well connected by proper all season roads. • Lack of appropriate supply chain network and logistics support.


With increasing infrastructural support and tailor made innovative marketing strategies for rural India, simultaneously delivering both preventive and curative therapies under one umbrella, it may not be difficult for the Indian pharmaceutical companies to discover The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ – a win-win situation indeed for both the ‘haves’ and a vast majority of ‘have-nots’ living in an amazing country called India.

The name of the game is less moaning and a bagful of implementable creative ideas.

By: Tapan J Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

The top two reasons for not seeking medical treatment, across the population, are not poor ‘Access to Healthcare’ in India

“About 1.8 million children under age of 5 die in India every year; 68,000 mothers die due to maternal causes, and 52 million children in the country are stunted”.

“With 70% people living in more than 600,000 villages across rural India, not more than an estimated 30% have access to modern medicine”.

Such sensational headlines could be fallacious at times and may tend to divert the attention of all concerned from some of the key healthcare issues in India. We are indeed too negative in our approach towards a problem solution process. All stakeholders interested in improved healthcare facilities are continuously engaged in an eternal blame game. Government blames the industry and the industry blames the government and so on. In this unfortunate logjam scenario since last several decades, any possibility of breaking it will require active interference by a ‘Cerebral Braveheart”

Moreover, taking advantage of this situation, some groups of people want to progress their vested interests by projecting a ‘Weaker India’ and pontifying with crocodile tears.

Let me now try to explore these issues with hard facts.

Access to ‘round the year’ healthcare facilities in India:

As reported by the Government of India in 2004, access to healthcare infrastructure and services for the rural villages in terms of percentages were as follows (Source:India Health Report 2010) :

  1. Primary Health Centers: 68.3
  2. Sub-Centers: 43.2
  3. Government Dispensaries: 67.9
  4. Government hospitals in urban areas: 79
  5. Private Clinics: 62.7
  6. Private Hospitals: 76.7

I reckon, after implementation of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and National Urban Health Mission (NRUM), this situation prevailing in 2004 has improved. However, the scope for further improvement in all these areas still remains very high.

Hence, the shrill voice highlighting around 65% of population of India does not have access to healthcare or medicines seem to be motivated and highly misplaced.

‘Access to Modern Medicines’ is improving in India:

In addition to the above facts, CAGR (volume) of the pharmaceutical industry since the last ten years has been over 10%, leaving aside another robust growth factor being contributed through the introduction of new products, every year. Encouraging growth of the Indian Pharmaceutical Market (IPM), since the last decade, both from the urban and the rural areas certainly signals towards significant increase in the domestic consumption of medicines in India.

IPM maintained a scorching pace of 16.5% growth in 2010. A recent forecast of IMS highlights similar growth trend in 2011, as well.

In addition, extension of focus of the Indian pharmaceutical Industry, in general, to the fast growing rural markets clearly supports the argument of increasing ‘Access to Modern Medicines’ in India. The improvement in access may not exactly be commensurate to the volume growth of the industry during this period, but a major part of the industry growth could certainly be attributed towards increase in access to medicines in India.

For arguments sake, out of this rapid growth of the IPM, year after year consistently, if I attribute just 5% growth per year, for the last nine years over the base year, to improved access to medicines, it will indicate, at least, 57% of the population of India is currently having access to modern medicines and NOT just 35%, as I wrote in this blog earlier.

Unfortunately, even the Government of India does not seem to be aware of this gradually improving trend. Official communications of the government still quote the outdated statistics, which states that 65% of the population of India does not have ‘Access to Modern Medicines’ even today. No wonder, why many of us still prefer to live on to our past.

Be that as it may, around 43% of the population will still not have ‘Access to Modern Medicines’ in India. This issue needs immediate attention of the policy makers and can be resolved with a holistic approach. A robust model of healthcare financing for all socio-economic strata of the population, further improvement of healthcare infrastructure and healthcare delivery systems are the needs of the hour.

So called ‘Diseases of the Poor’ are no longer the ‘Leading Causes of Death’ in India:

Unlike popular belief that diseases of the poor are the leading causes of death in India. The office of the Registrar General of India (2009) highlights a totally different scenario, where the top five leading causes of death in terms of percentage, have been reported as follows:

  1. Cardiovascular diseases: 24.8
  2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): 10.2
  3. Tuberculosis: 10.1
  4. Cancer: 9.4
  5. Ill-defined conditions: 5.3

Thus the diseases of the developed world like cardiovascular diseases, COPD and Cancer cause over 45% of the total deaths in India, whereas Tuberculosis, Malaria, Diarrheal and digestive diseases cause around 23% deaths in the country.

The key reasons for not seeking medical treatment are not poor ‘Access to Healthcare’:

As I wrote before, the key reasons for not seeking medical treatment across socio-economic status in the country are not predominantly ‘Poor Access to Healthcare ‘. The following data will vindicate this point:

Reason Rural Poorest 20% Rural Richest 20% Urban Poorest 20% Urban Richest 20%
Financial Reasons 39.7 21.2 37.2 2.3
Ailments not considered serious 27.2 45.6 44.3 84.4
No Medical facilities 12.8 10.0 1.6 _
Others 20.3 23.2 16.9 13.3
Total 100 100 100 100

(Source: India Health Report 2010)


Thus even if the government ensures ‘Access to Healthcare’ to 100% of the population of India by taking all drastic infrastructural, policy and delivery measures, still a large section of the population both rich and poor and from urban as well as rural India will not seek medical treatment assuming many of their ailments are not serious enough. Such a situation will definitely not materially improve the healthcare scenario of India, adversely affecting the economic progress of the country by a robust productive population.

This necessitates continuous disease awareness campaigns with active participation of all stakeholders, including the civil society across the country, sooner rather than later, in tandem with all measures as will deem necessary.

By: Tapan J Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

To reap rich harvest from emerging global opportunities, Indian Biotech sector needs a ‘lifeline’ from the new Government… Now.

Growth of Biotech Industry in India took a dip in 2008. It registered a turnover of U.S $2.56 billionwith a growth of 20%, over the previous year. The industry was clocking an annual growth of over 30%, before this period.According to the Association of Biotech Led Enterprises (ABLE)this growth rate can still be considered as encouraging. Some industry experts endorsed this view by commenting that 10% drop in the growth rate was mainly due to exchange rate variations impacting exports earning.However, many other do not subscribe to this explanation. They argue that global financial meltdown has caused an all-round liquidity crisis and lower demand in the biotech sector, leading to sharp decline in income generation.

It appears that even 2009 will continue to be a challenging year for the Biotech sector. As is known to many, continuous innovation is the growth driver of this sector and the main fuel for this growth driver is continuous infusion of capital, the pipeline of which is drying up during the current period of global financial crisis.

ABLE Survey on Biotech sector:

A recent survey, conducted by ABLE, reported as follows for the biotech sector:

1. 56% of revenue (U.S$ 1.44 billion) was generated from exports

2. Bio-pharma accounted for about 70% of exports

3. Bio-services are about 26% of exports with an encouraging growth of 46% followed by bio-informatics with 31% growth rate

4. The top 20 Indian firms accounted for 48 % of the total biotech market

5. Last year investments in Biotech were reported to have grown by around 21%.

ABLE expects a decent growth of the bio-pharma segment over the next five years. Bio-services and bio-generic exports to the regulated markets are expected to be the key growth drivers during this period. However, the moot question is: will the current global financial crisis act as a dampener to such bullish expectations?

Market forecast for Biotech sector:

‘Bio-spectrum’, in one of its recent reports, highlighted that with the new biotech policy of the Government of India (GoI), the sector is expected to grow to U.S$ 13-$16 billion by 2015. Serum Institute of Pune is at the top of the league table with a turnover of Rs. 9.87 billion followed by Biocon and Panacea Biotech.

Some analysts feel that the Indian biotech sector has the potential to register a turnover of U.S$5 billion by 2010 and U.S$20 billion by 2020. This is mainly due to increasing global demand for more affordable medicines in general and biotech medicines in particular. Recent introduction of ‘The Promoting Innovation and Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act’ in the US House of Representatives vindicates this point.

It is envisaged that this bill will enable the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to create regulatory pathways for marketing approval of ‘bio-similar’ drugs in the USA. Many Indian biotech companies, analysts feel, are preparing themselves to make full use of this golden opportunity as soon as it comes.

How is the ‘Global Financial Meltdown’ affecting the Biotech sector?

The impact of ‘Global Financial Meltdown’ is all pervasive in the Biotech sector, all over the world, India is no exception.

Because of global liquidity crunch, availability of capital to fund the growth of this sector has become scarce, leading to most of the growth plans, if not all, are being put on hold. Fear among the Indian Biotech companies of turning an easy prey for the predators in search of a good biotech portfolio, is looming large. It was recently reported in the media that GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis are interested to acquire a majority stake of Shantha Biotech of Hyderabad.

In abroad, we have witnessed such instances when Roche acquired Genentech, Astra Zeneca bought MedImmune, Eli Lilly acuired Imclone and Merck took over Serno.

Why is the impact of global ‘liquidity crunch’ more on the Biotech sector?

The impact on ‘liquidity crunch’ on the Biotech sector is more pronounced because all over the world this sector is dominated mainly by much smaller companies, engaged in the drug discovery and development research. Continuous flow of fund is of utmost importance not only to fund growth of these organizations, but for their survival, as well. Private equity funding is also dwindling up pretty fast.

GoI initiatives to encourage growth of Biotechnology sector:

Mr. Kapil Sibal outgoing Minister of Science and technology of the erswhile UPA government, not too long ago, announced the plan of the GoI to build 20 more biotech parks in India, in order to provide the required infrastructural facilities to this sector and promote high quality R&D initiatives related to biotechnology.

It is indeed encouraging to note that the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has already signed a 10-year contract with the Welcome Trust towards developing human resources of high quality, for the sector.

Emerging outsourcing opportunities:

Despite such pessimistic scenario, Indian biotech sector is bullish on the business opportunities from various types of emerging outsourcing opportunities being offered by the global pharmaceutical companies, because of their business compulsions, particularly in Contract Research and Manufacturing services (CRAMS) space.

Zinnov management consulting recently reported that outsourcing opportunities of over U.S. $ 2.5 billion will come to the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry, including its Biotech sector by 2012. This will indeed help the domestic pharmaceutical companies in a big way, as many players are now finding the transition from manufacturing ‘copy cat’ generic drugs to devising new therapies, pretty difficult.


To reap a rich harvest from of all these emerging global and local opportunities, the biotech sector of India now needs a ‘lifeline’ from the new Government. Ensuring easy availability of capital will be the ‘lifeline’, at this moment of global financial crisis.

In the battle against disease let the Biotech parks of India be seen as the ‘Armageddon’, as it were, global hub to cater to the needs of poor and needy – a symbol of scientific supremacy.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.