India can look beyond generics: Merck executive

Our Bureau Hyderabad | Updated on February 23, 2021

The country can scale in vaccine manufacturing, supply value chain, says Sanat Chattopadhyay, Executive Vice-President and President, Merck Manufacturing Division

Indian pharmaceutical companies, who have been playing a major role in global supply chains with supplies of generics, now have the potential to scale up the value chain, according to Sanat Chattopadhyay, Executive Vice-President and President, Merck Manufacturing Division.

Delivering his address at BioAsia 2021, a life-sciences and healthcare forum, being hosted in Hyderabad, he said: “In the last one year, a tsunami of changes has been unleashed, causing havoc on the global pharmaceutical industry. Our purpose at Merck is to improve access to life-saving therapeutics and vaccines across the world.”

Covid disruption

The pandemic has not only disrupted supply chains but also enabled companies to innovative and strengthen their networks by going digital. We see potential to further enhance efficiencies by using artificial intelligence, machine-learning and better management of data, he added.

He said the pandemic has forced Merck to look at strengthening the supply chain systems.

The focus is now on end-to-end supply-chain planning — digitising the journey of a dose. “We have digitised our shop floors and supply chain end-to-end. This capability was very critical in helping us through the pandemic.

“When the pandemic started, we were able to divert all our shipments from Japan to Germany in a week, a process that would otherwise take us three months. Much more public-private partnerships are are needed in the future to help distribute vaccines across the globe,” he said.

India has been known to have immense capabilities as a low-cost drug-manufacturer and supplier. However, thanks to Bharat Biotech and the development of the Covid vaccine, the perception is now changing. The world is now realising that India is much more than a low-cost generics player, Chattopadhyay added.

“India should keep pivoting to innovate and develop vaccines along with the low-cost manufacturing capabilities. It should facilitate more foreign investments.”

Tech tools

Advanced technological investments, especially in artificial intelligence, machine-learning and data sciences will play a major role in vaccine development in the future. India can join Merck and the rest of the industry globally, to help distribute and manage vaccines, thereby playing a much larger role in the global pharma industry.

“India needs to reinvent itself by encouraging more FDI and investments, while ensuring intellectual property is well-protected. There is also the need for enhanced focus on compliance which will enable it to scale up the value chain. This will enable India to play a much bigger role in global supply chain.”

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Published on February 23, 2021
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