Who would spend a billion Dollars and over ten years on something that may not succeed? The pharma industry takes up this challenge for drug discovery. But, all the money that they stand to harvest out of ‘that one blockbuster drug’ makes the entire effort of R&D worth while. Yet, very few Indian pharma companies possess the deep pockets and retention capability that R&D demands.

Now, Indian pharmacos have started scouting for partners to manage the economics of R&D by sharing the risks and the rewards. This is a win-win situation for both the companies, wherein, the shared capabilities of expertise and funding are optimally utilised. In-licensing/out-licensing and research collaboration are the many trends visible in this sphere. There is no dearth of innovation in the field too. Dr Reddy’s came up with a new formula to attract R&D investments and regulate risks with its Perlecan Pharma, which is an R&D spin-off formed in collaboration with ICICI Ventures and Citibank Ventures. The cover story in this issue focuses on the various partnerships that are being formed in the industry to take a molecule from the formative stage to the marketing phase.

IT’s the answer

The answer to cost and time problems of pharma R&D has come in the form of Information Technology (IT). IT serves the R&D end-to-end, right from target validation to data management to filing electronic dossiers, thereby truncating the length of the development cycle, as well as saving costs.

Moreover, bioinformatics solutions can predict incorrect drug targets early in the phase and shift the focus to the right molecule. It also allows scientists to cover a large number of targets and increase the probability of drug discovery. Clinical trial is a phase, which involves a large amount of data. The use of computational power has made the data management and access very easy, especially for CRO’s which cater to international clients. The Management section of this issue focuses on the benefits of IT in drug discovery and clinical research.

Return of the expats

Indian R&D is still in its nascent stages and this sudden surge in the R&D activity has brought forth the problem of scarcity of scientific manpower. However, this does not mean that Indians lack scientific expertise. Quite a number of researchers have left India in search of greener pastures long back, as there was not much research in India. Cashing in on this fact, quite a few Indian and MNC companies are planning to call the expats back to India to head research initiatives. But this strategy needs to be managed carefully, since expats may pose numerous cultural, monetary and leadership issues.

Sandeep Ajgaonkar