“The future of the life science industry will be more digital & data-driven”

Pankaj Joshi, Director, Merck Life Science shared his views on the company’s latest initiatives, technology trends, future outlook and much more

In an exclusive interview, Pankaj Joshi, Director, Merck Life Science shared his views on the company’s latest initiatives, technology trends, future outlook and much more

BV LogoPlease take us through Merck’s unique offerings for the biotech industry and academia.
With the mission to empower the scientific community, we at Merck continuously strive to bring innovative solutions for improving the research workflows and accelerating research to make life better for the community. We empower the scientific community. Our tools, services, and digital platforms simplify analysis to help deliver breakthroughs more quickly.
From advancing gene editing technologies and discovering unique ways to the most challenging research applications to enabling the intelligence of devices – Merck has a strong focus and commitment to advancing science and technology. Our latest breakthrough products are worth a mention, including a flow-based, multiplex platform to elevate assay performance and empower innovation in assay development, the only automated cell counter that is portable and handheld), SYNTHIA™ Retrosynthesis Software (accelerate pathway discovery from weeks to minutes) and many more.
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How is your company helping the sector adopt technology trends including automation and digitalization of biotech labs?
The pandemic’s effects have changed how biotechnology companies think about digital technology, and Merck has been ahead of the curve. We develop products and technologies that enrich people’s lives. To this end, we are constantly looking for ground-breaking developments and trends. Research and development (R&D) and innovation are the cornerstones of our success.
We also foster innovation ecosystems to bolster our overall innovative power in several areas. Digitalisation is a significant focus of our innovation efforts, and we leverage related opportunities to boost our business performance. We are, therefore, increasingly forming new strategic partnerships with organizations offering different perspectives. Digitalization has enabled us to broaden our existing product portfolio to include offerings that will strengthen the scientists across life science to solve the toughest problems in life science, from drug discovery to disease progression studies.
Our recent launch, LANEXO™ Lab Inventory, Safety and Compliance Management System, is a pathbreaking digital laboratory informatics solution designed to reduce lab time and improve data quality and traceability.
“The pandemic’s effects have changed how biotechnology companies think about digital technology”
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How can the industry benefit from the rich R&D expertise of academia? Your suggestions on how collaborative steps between academia and industry can facilitate a better ecosystem?
With the pandemic changing the world outlook, R&D is being promoted more than ever. The focus on R&D is bringing in significant investments and assisting in the growth of biotech sector research, including the creation of domestic vaccines. Being the sunrise sector for India, the need of the hour is increased collaboration between academia and industry to utilize India’s technological capabilities and skilled workforce optimally. This collaboration will only help in research and development but also in translating those research findings into practical applications which will further drive human progress.
With our R&D team, we are committed to developing innovations that improve people’s quality of life. That motivation keeps us at the forefront of life science. Our Life Science business is research-driven and innovation-focused. With a portfolio of approximately 300,000 innovative products and services, we meet our customer’s needs – from antibodies to water purification systems, with over 2,000 employees working in various R&D functions worldwide. These teams collaborate closely with our customers to solve the toughest problems in life science by translating ideas into product innovations. To do so, we invest significantly in R&D, both in talent and technology, amplifying dedicated research and development efforts.
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How is Merck trying to bridge the existing gaps? Company’s initiatives, such as setting up centres of excellence focusing on skill development and knowledge sharing?
We understand that to attract students in science and encourage entrepreneurship, there is a need to improve the standard of science and technology education. The above-stated can only be achieved by increased private sector involvement and collaboration with universities and government-supportive policies.
Collaboration is crucial for driving scientific innovation and discovery, particularly with the involvement of young aspiring scientists in the industry. Our initiative Merck High-End Skill Development Centre at CSIR-IMTech, Chandigarh, and Innovation Lab, Bangalore, provides opportunities for young students, researchers, industries, and academics to join forces with Merck. It’s a flagship initiative to nurture curious minds of tomorrow dedicated to human progress. The state-of-the-art facilities are steps toward our journey of creating scientific talents and honing scientific skills. More than 15,000 researchers trained in labs constitute our society’s pool of confident young scientists.
We recently celebrated 10K members on the Merck High-End Skill Development Group on LinkedIn. The group is unique as it brings together researchers, Key Opinion Leaders, and Industry experts from every part of the country. Its growth rate increases as we diversify our efforts and add hundreds of new people to our community each month.
“The focus on R&D is bringing in significant investments and assisting in the growth of biotech sector research”
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How has Merck invested in the academic growth and development programs? Any examples?  
Scientific exploration and development have been essential to Merck’s technological and scientific advances. The Merck Young Scientist Award promotes and celebrates the scientific triumphs of young scientists working within India. This award is a step toward tackling the most difficult challenges in life sciences by engaging with the scientific community in search of curious minds inspired by a desire to make a difference in the lives of millions of people throughout India. We have already conducted the two successful chapters of the biennial award, and all are geared up for 2023.
Our knowledge-sharing digital platform ‘mpoweringlifescience.com’ celebrates the power of collaboration with academia, industries, and start-ups in the life science space. To engage the brightest minds, we have initiated ‘Merck Curious Days,’ a perfect testament to our mission to advance scientific progress and connect scientists nationwide.
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Kindly outline your future outlook for the biotech industry? Which do you consider the key growth drivers?
The year has been transformative, and life science has been central to this transformation. Biotechnology and healthcare are crucial components of the life science sector, and both have witnessed significant growth in recent years. In addition to the growth in the vaccine market driven by its entrepreneurial, innovative and domestic talent-driven approach, considerable growth is expected in exports of diagnostics and medical devices.
The future of the life science industry will be more digital and data-driven. Adaption of new technology will be a significant factor in tackling future challenges. Implementing Big Data in life sciences to look at the vast amount of data generated via next-generation sequencing can bring transformational changes in life science.
Genomics, 3D bio-printing and disease modelling, robotics and advanced communication solutions also hold the potential to play roles as key growth drivers for the biotech industry. The expansion of biotech incubators and start-ups will also play a key role in driving the success of the Indian Biotech Industry.

*This interview was first published in the April 2023 edition of the BioVoice eMagazine.