Can we succeed at drug discovery?
Written by The Economic Times   
Wednesday, 12 February 2003

 The Economic Times

For Indian pharmaceutical companies to be standing successfully on the basic research podium is like expecting our gymnasts to win an Olympic gold.

Without acquiring mental toughness, exhaustive training, long term planning and systematic execution, it is not possible to discover science. It is even more difficult to have it recognised internationally.

Most Indian companies are like well-bred (not necessarily well groomed), toughened horses that are capable of running the short race at a great speed, producing more mileage at minimal expense.

Unless reined in, they are also capable of trampling over human fields, creating havoc in the wake. It is but the second part that ought to be the main cause of our concern.

The Indian psyche suffers from a serious hangover of 'chalta hai' attitude. Coupled with a strong desire to earn quick money, name and recognition, it often is tempted to bypass cumbersome, detailed and mandatory technical details governing the safety and efficacy of the biological science.

The resultant discovery not only fails the all-important acid test overseas and calls into question India's credibility. It also de-motivates Indian scientists and encourages brain drain.

If Indian science wishes to be treated at par with the international research community, it has to tap the enormous in-house scientific gene pool.

First, it is mandatory to abolish archaic laws and create strong regulatory machinery at par with global standards. The system should be able to make companies accountable and keel-haul those found defaulting.

Second, it should build up drug discovery infrastructure in a conducive environment; motivate research companies through liberal tax structure and economically secure the researchers.

Third, it should promote and build knowledge culture engulfed in a scientific atmosphere that nurtures the wings of young dreamers.

Unless this is achieved with resilience, grit and focus, we shall continue to ignore our scientific pool, which otherwise shines like a blue diamond on foreign crowns, and pass it off as rough stones.

Harinder S Sikka, Senior President (Corporate), NPIL*

(* Nicholas Piramal India Limited)
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