The Narendra Modi government is planning to begin hunt for a “made in India” drug molecule, to demonstrate its drug discovery capabilities.
Initially, the government is planning to create a separate department for “research and development” with a focus on discovering new drug molecules that are “commercially viable”. It is also planning a separate post for the department’s head.
The Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), the apex authority under the parent Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, is enhancing the proposal directed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), told by two government officials.
In its five-year vision document, the DoP had planned to “stimulate R&D in pharma” after the government came back to power for a second term in May.
“It will be the first time that India will have an official to head the R&D in the pharma industry. He or she will be responsible for stimulating the development of new drugs that are commercially viable,” a senior DoP official, who did not wish to be named.
“Despite plenty of research projects in all the top institutes of India, we haven’t discovered any commercially viable drug molecules,” the officer added.
India remains out of the club of nations that have demonstrated the capability of developing a new drug molecule, despite being the third-largest seller of medicines in the world — with 3,000 pharma companies and a network of over 10,500 manufacturing facilities.
To boost drug discovery, the DoP had formed an inter-departmental committee to coordinate R&D activities undertaken by various top institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPERs) and the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) among others.
Led by Pharma Secretary P.D. Vaghela and other joint secretaries in the department, the panel has now proposed to create a separate vacancy for the post of R&D head.
“Duties of the R&D head are also being outlined. The committee is also studying the research gaps where all top research institutes such as IITs and NIPERs will be invited for consultations,” said a senior official in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers.
The committee is also proposing the plan to work on “creating industry-academia linkages”.
“For instance, if innovators at IIT have created a drug molecule, the government will help in finding pharma companies in launching the product in the market. Committee will also brief on clauses for revenue sharing between innovator and pharma firms.
“The objective of the committee is to guide the innovators and industry to create commercially viable projects. DoP will extend help to these projects through its annual budgetary allocations,” said the official.