India pushes biotech support through new government agency

India plans to establish a new agency, the Biopharma Industry Incubator (BII), to support healthcare startups in researching and developing new drugs as part of the nation's push to find treatments for its major diseases.

India's Science and Technology minister Harsh Vardhan

Creation of the BII was one of several items on a long list of moves outlined by Harsh Vardhan, minister for Science and Technology, on a visit to the Central Drug Research Institute to highlight its latest studies of innovative drugs.

Later he elaborated on the overall R&D plans, saying the government aims to make India "a global pharmaceutical powerhouse." In addition to the BII, he said, he said he was "in the process of putting some key enablers in place," such as providing R&D incentives, creating public- and private-sector alliances and possibly offering "fiscal relief to the private sector."

Vardhan said the major effort was the result of a realization that government organizations in India have been driving what there was of India drug R&D. He called on industry to work with the government's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research on new drugs through seamless partnerships.

He noted during his visit to the CDRI quarters that the agency was deep into studies on molecules for everything from major diseases from cancer, hyperglycemia, malaria and thrombosis to fracture-healing. Government scientists also were focusing on next-generation drugs such as biologics and bio-similars, gene-based and stem-cell therapeutic and personalized and "multifunctional nano-medicine," the minister said.

Vardhan did not elaborate on the BII plans, but lumped it in with other agencies to be added to the CDRI's purview, including laboratories certified for Government Laboratory Practices, and creation of a National Centre for Laboratory Animals governed by national and international standards for lab-animal breeding and experimentation for new drugs.

Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan have built clusters for biotech companies to operate in proximity, hoping to spur collaboration hubs like those that exist in Boston, Silicon Valley and San Diego as well as the Oxford-Cambridge triangle in England.

- here's the Science & Technology ministry release
- and coverage from the Times of India