INNOVATE IN INDIA: Govt launches National Biopharma Mission worth US$ 250 million

The first ever Industry-Academia mission to accelerate biopharmaceutical development program aspires to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the sector

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New Delhi: In a bid to create a globally competitive biopharmaceutical industry that addresses the country’s major concerns around barriers to affordable healthcare, the union minister for science and technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan launched the Innovate in India (I3) program on 30th June 2017 in New Delhi.

The 250 million USD program of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), ministry of science and technology; is a first- of-its-kind mission that brings together industry and academia to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the biopharmaceutical sector. This flagship program of the Indian government in collaboration with World Bank, will be implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Public Sector Enterprise, set up by DBT.

Giving a sneak peak on what to expect from the mission, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated “This Mission is anticipated to be a game changer for the Indian Biopharmaceutical industry. It aspires to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the sector”. The programme will specifically focus on the development of new vaccines, bio-therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices to better address the rising burden of diseases in the country. It will also bring isolated centres of excellence together, enhance regional capabilities and strengthen the current bio-clusters network in terms of capacities as well as quantity and quality of output.

The Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan addressing the media on the launch of the National Biopharma Mission. The Secretary, Department of Science & Technology, Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan is also seen along with Dr Renu Swarup, MD, BIRAC.
The Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan addressing the media on the launch of the National Biopharma Mission. The Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Prof K. Vijay Raghavan is also seen along with Dr Renu Swarup, Managing Director, BIRAC. (Image Credits: PIB) 

dna-1500071_1280Total project cost to be funded by Government of India is Rs 1500 crore for five years. Fifty percent costs for the Mission Programme will be arranged through the World Bank loan.

Expanding on the scope of the program, Dr K VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology & Chairman BIRAC shared, that “This endeavor will help nurture next- generation technical skills; promote entrepreneurship; and support institutions in adoption of global innovations, technologies, and licensing models. It will provide young entrepreneurs the confidence as well as the systemic support to pursue their aspirations in biotechnological innovation, and transform India into a global hub for cutting-edge biotechnology research and development”.

The oversight to the program would be provided by the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee comprising of members from various Ministries and would be supported by Program Technical Advisory Group comprising of global and national leaders from industry and academia. The program thereby stands unique in its approach as it becomes a cradle to innovate, co-create and co-facilitate scientific discoveries and offers young entrepreneurs an avenue to engage with the best in the industry.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr Renu Swarup, Senior Adviser DBT & MD, BIRAC shared, “We undertook an extensive landscaping study to identify critical gaps impeding growth and innovation in the Biopharma sector. Taking cognizance of these gaps, i3 is focussed on targeted measures to develop platform technologies for product validation, link disparate institutions to strengthen clinical trial networks, promote partial de-risking  for novel products, and build capacities in emerging areas such as translational bioinformatics, bioethics etc.”With an aim to provide a level playing field for new entrants, the program would open calls for research proposals beginning August and roll-out in October this year.

MISSION BIOPHARMA
Dr Harsh Vardhan lighting the lamp while Dr Soumya Swaminathan, DG-ICMR (extreme right) and Dr Girish Sahini, DG-CSIR (middle) look on. (Image Credits: DBT)

The mission was launched in the presence of Dr K VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology; Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, World Bank India; dignitaries from the concerned Ministries: Dr Soumya Swaminathan, DG- ICMR; Dr J P Prakash; Secretary Department of Pharmaceuticals, Dr G N Singh DCGI and DBT officials.

The program launch occasion was also graced by the presence of eminent scientists from academia and representatives from the Indian industry. It promises to boost the growth curve for domestic biopharma in India by accelerating the translation of research concepts into viable products, enabling sustainable networks for collaboration between industry and academia, and supporting entrepreneurial ecosystem amongst many others.

The Mission is much in sync with the National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-2020 announced earlier by the DBT. It lays emphasis on making India ready to meet the challenge of achieving US $100 billion biotech industry by 2025. The key focus areas of the program would aid in preparing India’s technological and product development capabilities in the biopharmaceutical sector to a level that it is globally competitive over the next 10-15 years and will transform the health standards of India’s population through affordable product development.

For the implementation, a Programme Management Unit will be set up at BIRAC, which will work as an operational and functional arm for oversees and monitors program implementation and progress.

The Mission will focus on development of specific products vaccines, biotherapeutics, medical devices and diagnostics; establishment of shared infrastructure and facilities; building and strengthening domain specific knowledge and management skills; creating and enhancing technology transfer capabilities in public and private sector.

Key Facts:

♦ A US$250 M Mission with US$125 M coming as World Bank funding

♦ Will create an ecosystem for innovative indigenous product development by researchers, start ups and SMEs and make Indian Biotech Industry Globally competitive

♦ India which today occupies only 3% of the Biopharmaceuticals Global Market aims to reach 5% by 2022

♦ It will make the sector globally competitive over the next 10-15 years

♦ It will transform the health standards of India’s population through affordable product development.