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BW Businessworld

The Pharmaceutical Sector Bats For Research And Innovation

Spread over three sessions, a one-day virtual health conclave was held on the 12th of May, 2021

Photo Credit : ShutterStock

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At the conclave the main focus was to seek answers on controversial issues in the pharma sector. It is an unavoidable conclusion that the Indian pharmaceutical industry is a major force to reckon with in the comity of nations but where does it head from here? Will things get better or worse?

Speaking in the inaugural session organised by APAC News Network, titled - ‘India has Emerged as Pharma Hub of the World – Way Ahead & Challenges’ Prof. Kiran Kalia, Director, NIPER Ahmedabad said, “India has built on generics and can move up the value chain by new drug discovery.” Speaking on a similar sentiment, Dr Vishal Rajgarhia, Director & CEO, Finecure Pharmaceuticals Limited said, “We are number 3 in the world but number 7 in value. We need to customize research and turn to innovation.”

Undisputed in opinion that India has been a leader in generics and supports the world in a big way, the speakers, all of them gave a thumbs up for innovation. “We are strong in core chemistry skills. Now we need to build biology skills,” said Rahul Adakmol, COO- International Operations & Business Development, Bharat Serums and Vaccines.

S M Mudda, Managing Director, Misom Labs Limited, Malta & Chairman, IDMA Regulatory Affairs Committee was of the opinion that the academic-industry interface has been spoken for eons but even today true collaboration is missing. He attributed this to trust. He further added, “Intellectual Property Rights is a serious concern a trust needs to be built between academia and industry.”

Anil Gidwani, Director, Dana Pharmaceuticals was very enthusiastic in introducing a basic course for the pharmaceutical industry in India. He said that when one is looking out for a compression operator or capsule filler there is hardly anyone trained. The ITIs could fill this gap. Speaking on the future of the sector, Prof. Kiran Kalia commented saying, “The four pillars for future of pharma is infrastructure, finance, human resources and regulatory framework.”

Like all sectors, the pharma space too has been toying with new age technologies, the session on ‘Digital Transformation of Pharma Sector Through New Age Technologies such as IoT, AI, ML & Blockchain’ witnessed a lot of ideas. Mahidhwaj Sisodia, Head- International Formulation Business, Cadila Pharmaceuticals Limited felt that “The pharma sector has been laggard in digitisation but due to Covid it has gained prominence.” Srinivasa Reddy, Vice President & CIO, Granules India Ltd too said that digital transformation has picked up in pharma sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If blockchain is critical to verify and authenticity of drug, as told by Mahidhwaj, IoT has been embraced well especially in safety and productivity from shop floor to top floor”, opined Dr Avadhut Parab, AVP- IT, Wockhardt Ltd. 

On a similar note, Srinivasa Reddy said, “With AR and VR it has been able to reduce costs on several fronts. Critical assignments and process simulation and trend analysis are a few areas.”

“Move from a system to an ecosystem approach by connecting with all stake holders is the need” Dr Avadhut Parab felt.

A crucial aspect, SCM in pharma industry was caught off-guard and is still reeling under the pandemic’s onslaught. In the concluding session on SCM, Prasad S. Deshpande, Senior VP & Head of Global Procurement and Supply Chain, Biocon said, “Covid has accelerated SCM in the last two years. The geo-political relationship is playing a major role. China - India and US relationship is to be looked at.”

In what one may term as a new way of looking at the industry, there has been a shift from globalisation with a lot of talk on localisation. Vickram Srivastava, Head of Planning, Ipca Laboratories Ltd said, “The Government is keen on localisation and has also earmarked funds in a big way but it would take time to get there as far as self-reliance is concerned.” He went on to add, “It was a Black Swan event. Corona disrupted both demand and supply. Pharmaceuticals is not just producing drugs but packaging and distribution.”

Within the country, there has been short supply of drugs and PPE, hand gloves and other items. Pradeep Mishra, General Manager & Head – Central Procurement & Supply Chain, Paras Healthcare Pvt. Ltd said, “During an emergency the whole supply chain collapses.” Speaking about the efforts during the pandemic, Madan Sampath, Group General Manager- Country Head of Procurement & Supply Chain, Aster DM Healthcare said, “We decided to first focus on immediate response followed by sustained emergency relief during the pandemic.”

“Last year India was unable to supply PPE kits and N 95 masks but now we are comfortable. This shows we can match up,” said Pradeep Mishra, General Manager & Head – Central Procurement & Supply Chain, Paras Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. The speakers were of the view that India is better prepared this time around even for a third wave.

"With AR and VR it has been able to reduce costs on several fronts. Critical assignments and process simulation and trend analysis are a few areas." Srinivasa Reddy (YSR), Vice President & CIO, Granules India Limited said on a conclusive note on the topic of restrategising the pharma industry in the New World order.