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Clinical trials beckon India with a $26 billion purse

Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 9:22am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: dna

Experts expressed their concern over the lack of research culture in Indian medical colleges and hospitals. They called for an interface between the academia and industry.

Experts and investors at the Bangalore India Bio-2010 on Wednesday made a strong plea for a strong interface between the academia and industry to enable the country to grab huge opportunities in Biotechnology research, especially in clinical trials.

Dr Moni Abraham Kuriakose from Narayana Hrudayalaya, participating in a panel discussion on the issue, said, “India has highly trained work force, world-class health facilities, 221 medical colleges and a huge cost advantage in clinical trials. But still, the potential has not been fully utilised.”

India has 50% to 75% cost advantage in clinical trials and “we have a great opportunity to bag a huge share of the $26 billion clinical trials market in the world. India has just about 500 to 1,000 clinical investigators and it is too small, when compared with countries like the USA which has 50,000 of them. India is training about 1,000 clinical investigators each year and it should be ramped up to at least 10,000,” he said.

Dr Kuriakose wanted the government and private sector to initiate measures to develop research culture in medical colleges and hospitals, and encourage research as a career.  

Dr Ravi Kumar Banda, managing director of Xcyton Diagnostics Ltd, said “There are large gaps between the industry, academia and investor that need to be bridged. Institutes and research facilities should develop technology platforms or proof of concept for a product to showcase to the industry. Most collaborations fail because of the way the academia approach the industry. Some of the academic institutions like the Indian Institute of Science have good infrastructure. But not even 20% of its potential is being used for research and development.”

Prof Gayatri Saberwal, scientific officer, Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB), said “75% of the students passed out from IBAB have been placed in premier organisations such as Biocon, BrickWood, IBM, etc. IBAB is a novel private academic institute of the Govt of Karnataka and ICICI Bank. One of the challenges faced by the institute is the funding scheme of the Central government.”

Dr SR Rao, adviser, Department of Biotechnology under the Central government, said, “There is very little institutionalised relationship between industry and universities and only about 1,500 projects have been funded so far. The barriers in linkages and partnership are lack of mutual trust and appreciation, lack of financial gains, lack of infrastructure facilities, lack of frame work and different norms of evaluation.”

Dr Sunny Sharma, senior managing director (Asia), OrbiMed Advisors, India Pvt., Ltd., said, “The role of venture capital in life sciences is very much needed. Access of capital is important for research and development. What OrbiMed looks for are novel products and technology, technological breakthrough, strong management team, and growing market. Investors like OrbiMed can help in certain areas such as providing a long-term, value-added, strategic source of capital helping management achieve strategic, financial and operational objectives via participation at the board level.”

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