A New Paradigm for the Indian Pharma Industry

A New Paradigm for the Indian Pharma Industry

Swati A. Piramal,  Director, Strategic Alliances& Communications Nicholas Piramal India Limited India.

"Our strategy is based on our belief that Indian scientists can become creators of intellectual property rather than be copiers."

Where do you think the Asian pharma market stands today against the global market in terms of drug discovery?

The Economist’s Pharmaceutical Survey (The Next Big Thing, June 2005) mentioned that in the year 2004 China's and India's share of global drug development was only 4.6%. This share of the drug development pie is likely to rise dramatically from these two nations. The reasons being, better intellectual property laws, reverse brain drain and investment into drug discovery by public institutions and private industry.

What are the drivers for Indian companies to transform from generic producers to drug discoverers?

In India, there has been a rise in the number of research based companies as opposed to generic companies. Like my own company, Nicholas Piramal is focussed on drug discovery. Our model is to partner rather than try and infringe patents. This concept is gathering steam and is a new paradigm. It is difficult for generic companies to be “schizophrenic”—on one side try and bust rights for some countries. In this model the objective is to win the race by improving on time, costs and quality. It is the first agreement of its kind. It can work only when each member of the relay team is h3, has expertise and believes in the same values (in this case intellectual property protection). The model seeks to leverage the power of the network, which is a completely different approach.

What new areas of research hold promise for the Indian pharma industry?

India will be h3 in diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, cancer, infectious disease and vaccines. The day is not far when India will leverage its IT and engineering capabilities to make life saving drugs and devices.

How is the research strategy of NPIL unique and different from the other Indian companies who are also targeting original drugs?

We are leveraging the power of networks. Our motto is to “build partnerships that prosper”. Our partnerships with academia and global innovators are helping us build unique strengths and expertise. In addition, we have built a natural product library of over 50,000 microbial strains and 6000 plants from the bio-diverse regions of India. We believe this is a unique treasure house of potential new medicines.

NPIL has research collaborations with academic institutions like Anna University, Indian Institute of Science, etc.How have these collaborations helped NPIL in its progress towards a new drug molecule?

Indeed, our collaborations are giving us clues for developing new medicines in cancer and infectious disease research. We have a large number of collaborations with a patent, but on the other, get your own scientists to think of inventing rather than copying.

What are the reasons behind western companies collaborating with Indian companies for drug discovery? What are the pros and cons of tying up with foreign companies?

Our recent research collaboration with Eli Lilly has created a new paradigm in the pharma industry. This unique drug discovery collaboration is analogous to a “relay race” where Lilly will discover a new drug, file patents and “pass the baton” to us for taking it through to Phase II clinical trials. After that they have a call back option to take it further into Phase III. NPIL gets milestone payments (potentially about US$100 million), royalties and marketing India’s leading research institutions such as CSIR, Anna University, Indian Institute of Science etc.

NPIL aims to be the first Indian company to manufacture an original drug. How does it plan to achieve the same in the scenario where other companies' molecules are also in the final stages of testing?

We have a clear and focussed strategy and decided not to be in the generics space. Our strategy is based on our belief that Indian scientists can become creators of intellectual property rather than be copiers. This strategy is a long term one and will take time to bear fruits, but we hope that we will be one of the first companies to take an Indian discovery into global markets and help reduce the burden of disease not just for India but the rest of the world.

What are the challenges that the Indian companie s face in the drug discovery process? How well equipped are they to handle these challenges on their own?

The biggest challenge is government policy which tends to take a rather short sighted view and consistently reduces prices. This does not leave enough margin to invest in research. The prices of Indian medicines are perhaps the lowest in the world and the government has to be careful not to cut the wings of an industry which is making a global impact. We believe that using India’s drug discovery capability and technology we will bring affordable new patented drugs not just for India, but the rest of the world.

Any other comments that you would like to make?

Our goal is to make Indian drug discovery reach the global market for a price between US$ 50-100 million. It is an ambitious target but we can do this by leveraging the power of networks, effectively using Information Technology, and using the large patient base for clinical trials and betting on the creation of intellectual property and fostering global partnerships.

Author Bio

Swati A. Piramal
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