Washington, April 10:

India’s health biotech firms are emerging as a major global player, with growing means and know how to produce innovative as well as generic drugs and vaccines at lesser costs compared to giant Western companies.

The budding of an innovative Indian biotech sector holds major implications for the global industry and for improving health and prosperity in the developing world, according to a new Canadian research.

“India is innovating its way out of poverty,” says co-author Peter A. Singer of the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto. “With a massive and increasingly well-educated workforce, India is poised to revolutionise biotechnology just as it did the IT industry.

“India’s biotech sector is like a baby elephant - when it matures it will occupy a lot of space. The biotech industry is globalising and the impact of India’s and contribution to improving world health is potentially huge.”

Singer and co-authors Abdallah S Daar, Sarah E Frew, Monali Ray, Rahim Rezaie and Stephen M Sammut warn that lure of world market profits may divert much needed Indian research attention away from treatments for specific developing country illnesses, unlikely to be created by Western-based firms. “India needs to take steps to avert this outcome,” they say.

Published by Nature Biotechnology, authors say their study of 21 home-grown firms sheds unprecedented public light on India’s private sector biotech efforts and reports “a sector preparing not only for future growth but for developing innovative products”. It is the first known “detailed, independent, publicly available research” revealing product development capabilities and strategies used by India’s private firms to survive and grow amid developing country challenges.