India has announced plans to make the country “one of the top five global pharmaceutical innovation hubs” and create 500,000 new jobs in the sector within the next four years.

Under proposals drawn up by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and now awaiting the approval of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, more than $1 billion will be invested in promoting innovation in the Indian pharmaceutical industry over the next five years. The Ministry will provide half of this total and is calling for domestic drugmakers to contribute the remaining half, under the public-private partnership (PPP) model.

To encourage privately-owned drugmakers, the Ministry has also said it will provide a greater share of the funding for an initial period of around two to three years, in order to develop an infrastructure for R&D and talent, encourage the development of PPPs, provide financial incentives for the encouragement and incubation of innovation and establish a more favourable regulatory environment. The share of the private sector’s funding would increase once the industry’s infrastructure and talent pool has been developed, it is envisaged.

Overall, spending on pharmaceutical R&D will increase fivefold up to 2020 under the proposals, which are set out in a report entitled Vision 2020 drawn by the Ministry’s new department of pharmaceuticals in collaboration with management consultants McKinsey and 15 privately-owned pharmaceutical companies. The department was set up last July to ensure the availability of quality affordable medicines for the whole population.

Announcing the plan, Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the current state of R&D and infrastructure in the Indian pharmaceutical industry is weak. “We need to bolster it immediately - once this proposal comes through, India will become a global pharma hub. Five of 10 drugs being discovered in the world will be in India. We will also ensure patenting of our own drugs," the Minister added.

Neglected and country-specific diseases will be a focus of the new initiative, he went on, adding: “India is already recognised for its generic medicines. The fund would now help companies focus on specific areas of research like New Chemical Entities (NCEs), process and life cycle R&D, bio-similars and holistic medicine.”