Govt to step up pharma research in countryThe government has decided to adopt a two-pronged approach to step up the pace of pharmaceutical research in the country. This will include tie-ups with reputed overseas universities for collaborative research and education programmes, as well as setting up innovation centres at the six new National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Nipers), which are proposed to be set up.

One Niper is already up and running at Mohali, under the Department of Pharmaceuticals. This institute is in advanced talks with the Imperial College of London, University of Cambridge, Cardiff University of Wales, UK and the Emiline University in the US for initiating short-term courses and for initiating collaborative research, according to Ashok Kumar, secretary, Department of Pharmaceuticals.

"Our role will be that of a facilitator to create more human capital for the industry as part of the vision to make the Indian pharmaceutical industry a $50-billion (over Rs 2, 31,000-crore) sector within five years from the current $20 billion (over Rs 92,000 crore)," Kumar said on the sidelines of the India Pharma Summit organised recently by the Department of Pharmaceuticals and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Niper, Mohali has already tied up with the University of Helsinki, Finland for collaborative research programmes in association with Systems Biologics Worldwide and with Genzyme, one of the world's largest biotechnology companies, for two fellowship programmes in biotechnology.

The centre trains about 500 professionals every year in advanced pharmaceutical courses and the proposed six new Nipers coming up at Ahmedabad, Hajipur, Hyderabad, Calcutta, Rai Bareilli and Guwahati will train 3,500-4,000 professionals every year, according to Arun Jha and Devendra Chaudhary, joint secretaries, Department of Pharmaceuticals.

The two Nipers at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad will have incubation centres in translational research, while a medical devices centre will come up at Niper, Ahmedabad. An innovation centre for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) will be set up at the Hyderabad arm of Niper and an innovation centre for herbal medicines will come up at Hajipur, the officials said.

Retail expansion
Kumar also said the government was planning to increase the number of generic drug stores promoted by the government — dubbed 'Jan Aushadhi' — from the current 40 to 200 across the country by March 2010. Currently, public sector companies offer drugs for these stores. Another 126 private pharma companies have shown an interest in supplying drugs to these stores.

Once the numbers of stores increases, private sector companies are likely to supply drugs in large quantities, he said. The 'Jan Aushadhi' campaign, started in November 2008, offers quality medicines at affordable prices to the public.

The new pharmaceutical policy of 2006, which has provisions to control the prices of medicines, is pending clearance with a new Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Srikant Kumar Jena said the EGoM is likely to meet soon.