Indian Pharma The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry is in the process of consolidating and down-sizing while trying to maintain R&D productivity. Small and medium-sized companies are trying to make the most of available opportunities in niche segments.

While we see an extremely cautious approach to new R&D spending plans, the silver lining for Indian companies providing research services to big pharma is that the emphasis on controlling costs is leading to an increasing number of proposal requests, Dr Shoibal Mukherjee, senior vice president – Clinical Development, GVK Biosciences Private Limited told Pharmabiz in an email interaction.

The trend most relevant to India including GVK Biosciences is the slow but sure gravitation of research to cost-leveraged locations in India and China. Demand for off-shore services with greater scientific knowledge content for higher up the value chain is now visible. Several big pharma companies are considering moving significant chunks of R&D spending to these locations in order to make a perceptible impact on the bottom line. There is also a trend towards narrowing the research focus and making the focus more intensive in chosen domains. The need to reduce failure rates at all stages of the research and development continuum is leading companies to explore innovative designs and technology solutions.

Market opportunities and demand will continue to drive biotech-pharma research. But the lure of opportunity will be tempered by scientific challenges. The faster pace of basic research in priority areas such as oncology will drive downstream applied research, said Dr Mukherjee.

Globally, research funding has become, and will remain the number one challenge for small and medium players. In India a stagnant regulatory environment is a challenge for the growth of pharmaceutical research.

In addition, a limited pool of talent that is not growing at the required pace, paucity of world-class research institutions and training facilities, entry barriers and a stifling regulatory environment in education, and limited research talent and inclination among the medical profession can be foreseen to remain and grow as challenges unless the government takes urgent steps towards reform.

Delving into the issue of accessing qualified personnel for R&D departments, he said that while it is not difficult to get people with the necessary qualifications at the entry level, those with the right mix of technical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, attitude, personality, and behavioural attributes are few and far between. The research experience base in India is still quite limited, and consequently the average age of staff and the breadth and duration of relevant professional experience in most pharmaceutical research units in India is still very low, added Dr Mukherjee.