In a bid to push research and innovation across pharma and medtech sector, the Health Ministry is planning to allocate ₹700 crore fund to set up seven Centres of Excellence across various National Institutes of Pharmaceutical, Education & Research (NIPER). Another ₹4,250 crore will be allocated to push research in private sector though milestone-based support, said Union Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya.

The Centre could also pick up equity, ranging from 5-10 per cent, across these private players against proposed fund allocation. The scheme will formally launched in September.

According to Mandaviya, the Union Cabinet approved the Promotion of Research & Innovation in Pharma-MedTech sector (PRIP) scheme with an outlay of ₹5,000 crore for five years, from 2023-24 to 2027-28. The scheme will be in two parts: preparing capacity in PSUs; provide support to private sector for research.

 Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya

Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya | Photo Credit: ANUSHREE FADNAVIS

“In the US, nearly 25 per cent of profits of pharma companies are retained towards research and development. Against this, in India, the average research spend is 8 per cent. So it is important to push for research support in the private sector and this is where we thought of stepping in, make the sector attractive for investments and push innovation, new medicine development,” the Minister said.

₹700 cr fund for NIPERs

According to him, NIPERs in Mohali, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Rae Bareli, Guwahati, Hajipur and Kolkata will focus on research across categories like anti-viral and anti-bacterial drug discovery and development, medical device making, R&D in bulk drugs, novel drug delivery system, phytopharmaceuticals and bilogical therapeutics.

In Kolkata, the focus will be on developing manufacturing practices which include the modern continuous flow chemistry technology (instead of the previously popular batch processing method).

Push for private sector

The second component, targeting the private sector includes development of new chemical entity (or molecular entity), complex generics and biosimilars, precision medicines (used in stem cell technology and gene therapy), medical devices (leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning), orphan drugs (including rare diseases) and research on anti-microbial resistance.

“In the US, there is an existing pipeline of 500-600 new molecular entities at any given point of time. We need to get to that level,” Mandaviya said, adding that anti-microbial resistance is an area of concern that has been raised across international fora.

In terms of funding, nine established pharma companies across these areas will be financially supported with 35 per cent of the total cost (upto ₹125 crore per project for five years). Research would be across technology readiness levels (TRL) 1 – 9 (between initial conceptualisation and clinical testing). Total allocation would be ₹1,125 crore.

Another 30 companies would be supported, mostly across proof of concept level and clinical testing levels, with a max grant of Rs 100 crore per project during the scheme period. Finally a support of ₹1 crore would be extended across 125 research projects, focussing on the MSMEs. Total oulay would be ₹3,125 crore.

“Once projects become commercial viable, then there would be a provision for the Centre to pick up a 5 – 10 per cent stake depending on the size of the companies,” a senior Health Minisrty official told businessline. The stake would be against the funding and incubation support that the Centre is providing towards research.