COVID-19 expedites India’s focus on innovation within pharma, says GlobalData

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed India to expedite focus on pharma research and development (R&D) to become more independent. The hope of getting indigenous COVID-19 vaccines has boosted the government’s confidence towards indigenous research and development and this momentum should continue, says GlobalData, a leading data analytics and research company.

India is expected to unveil a new Pharma Research and Development policy soon to incentivize scientists based on the monetization of their innovations. According to the Global Innovation Index, India has moved up four places to 48 in the overall ranking across sectors in 2020.

Moreover, the government is willing to focus on industry-academia linkage to translate research into the development and the commercialization of technologies while promoting research towards new drug discovery.

Prashant Khadayate, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “India is working on infrastructure to accelerate R&D in India. Hopefully, the new policy will provide incentives that will accelerate R&D. It could act as a key milestone to turnaround the overall R&D environment within the Indian pharma industry.”

In 2019, the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) outlined a drug discovery scheme. However, the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for the active pharmaceutical ingredients was prioritized over the drug discovery scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic. The DoP set up an inter-departmental committee to coordinate R&D activities undertaken by various top institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPERs), and the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).

According to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center, Bharat Biotech (in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)) and Zydus Cadila are leading the race for indigenous vaccine development in India. Bharat Biotech vaccine Covaxin is in Phase III and the company has filed for its emergency use authorization (EUA), whereas Zydus Cadila’s vaccine ZyCoV-D is expected to enter Phase III in December 2020.

In July 2020, a first-of-its-kind Drug Discovery Hackathon project was initiated to develop an anti-COVID drug. This hackathon is a national initiative to support the drug discovery process and invited the participation of professionals, faculty, researchers, and students from varied fields like computer science, chemistry, pharmacy, medical sciences, basic sciences and biotechnology.

Mr Khadayate concludes: “Indigenous vaccines’ development progress by Indian companies in a short turnaround time has proven their capability in the innovation space on par with global companies. However, the government support will help in improving the overall environment towards research and development.”

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