Pharma industry eyes startups to spur growth

Startups should make better utilization of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), set up by Government of India to encourage start-ups by means of mentoring and financial support, say experts

By Sai Nikesh D

Aided by a large number of scientists, researchers as well as governmental measures in terms of a comprehensive intellectual property rights (IPR) policy, ‘Make in India’, financial assistance programmes, and regulatory reforms, Indian life sciences industry is expected to see a brighter prospect in the near future, say experts.

Taking note of the optimism within the industry, the Pharma Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil) along with KPMG and others has organised the 13th BioAsia Conference- BioAsia 2016, in Hyderabad.

The three-day conference from February 8-10 covered a wide range of issues related to drug discovery and innovation, clinical research, rapid diagnostics, digital health and healthcare, IT, and medical devices.

On Tuesday, experts took part in a discussion on ways to building a strategy for India to develop bio economy, need for collaboration models between industry and academia, industry consolidations and venture capitalism.

A large number of industry players pitched for an increased collaboration between industry and academia in order to broaden the scope of research and development (R&D) and other manufacturing activities. The participants also emphasized the need to encourage startups to expand the industry.

“Startups and small firms should go hand-in-hand and collaborate with the large firms. This will give startups a good market exposure and also a platform to explore and contribute more to the industry,” said Uday Saxena, CEO, Kareus Therapeutics, Switzerland.

He called upon the startups to make better utilization of programmes like Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) Fund, set up by the government of India to help entrepreneurs with technical guidance and financial support.

“Financing and enough success stories are need of the hour for the Indian bio-pharma industry, which will definitely see a bright future,” he noted.

“BIRAC is helping startups by two ways of funding and mentoring. In these lines, the government of Karnataka has already agreed to extend financial support to the tune of Rs.40-50 lakh,” said Ajith Kamath, Senior Director and Head, External R&D, Pfizer. Deepak Sapra, Vice President, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, said the pharma and biotech industry have to focus more on compliance and convenience, apart from bundling products and services.

Bobba Venkatadri, General Partner, Ventureast, said the Indian pharmaceutical industry, which has been doctor focused, will see a paradigm shift to become patient focused and evidence driven in future; and healthcare expenditure is going to be double by 2025.

According to experts, the January-September 2015 period is seen as exceptional for the bio-pharma industry. The industry is said to have witnessed merger and acquisitions (M&A) worth $43 billion during that period, with New York-based Pfizer alone accounting for around $60-bn M&A transaction.

A section of the participants were apprehensive about the outcome of the event and expressed disappointment over the slow pace of development in the sector in the recent past.

“BioAsia Conference – whatever has happened till date has been mostly ‘cosmetic’. Much has to happen on ground still,” a senior official from one of the largest pharmaceutical firms in Hyderabad told during the event. Clearly, BioAsia may have found many visitors in recent years, but it’s yet to find many believers.

This article was published in The Dollar Business on February 10, 2016

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