The Covid-19 pandemic brought to the limelight new drug delivery technologies like lipid-nano particles (LNP), out of which highly efficacious vaccines emerged. Post-pandemic, transformational technologies based on novel bio-ingredients like lipids started gaining worldwide attention.
Their role in targeted treatments for multiple diseases is a subject of academic interest and research by global pharmaceutical companies. Pathbreaking research is being undertaken in gene therapy based on LNP. Many acquired and genetic diseases have been treated using such delivery platforms. Initially, lipid-based gene therapy was used to treat genetically acquired disorders. Now, it is also used for treating acquired complex diseases like cancer, AIDS, ocular diseases, arthritis, and many peripheral vascular diseases.
Technologies like LNP can also be used to develop new-age thermostable vaccines. And such advanced Novel Drug Delivery Systems (NDDS) have the potential to transform the penetration of vaccines to rural locations, mountainous regions, or even the most remote interiors.
Vocal for local
Globally, governments are aggressively supporting capacity- building in lipids production. However, in India, there is only one company that manufactures GMP (good manufacturing practices)-grade lipids for LNP drug delivery.
The government should introduce - through Budget 2023 or other initiatives - schemes and incentives for companies that manufacture lipid ingredients. This will help manufacturers get the support they need in developing this technology further and bringing it to market.
Allocation of funds for research and development of transformational technologies and novel drug delivery (NDDS), drugs and biologics delivery, targeted drug delivery, and nanotechnology-based therapeutics, will open-up opportunities for academia and industry alike.
The PLI (Production Linked Incentive) scheme for the pharmaceutical sector in India mainly focuses on the traditional production of chemical molecules. It does not cover innovative and futuristic research and development areas. Extending the PLI scheme to emerging and promising new areas in research and development can bring down healthcare and hospitalisation costs significantly.
There is a great opportunity for India to take a globally leading role in treatments based on biologics for future medicine. In the future, newer treatments will emerge based on the use of novel biopharmaceutical ingredients like lipids for treating multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis,arthritis, rare diseases etc.
With proper government support, India will not have to depend on foreign supply chains for crucial ingredients and technologies in cutting-edge medical therapies.
(The writer is Managing Director, VAV Life Sciences (sole Indian supplier of lipid ingredients for mRNA Covid-19 vaccines). Views are personal.)