New Delhi: The government, which is set to launch five more National Institutes in Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Niper) in July, has significantly limited funding available for the project. It hopes the private sector will chip in for the rest.
Out of Rs1,000 crore that was estimated for the five institutes, the finance ministry has approved just a fifth of that amount. That means around Rs800 crore will have to come from the pharmaceutical industry. The government also wants the private sector to contribute towards equipment and laboratories.
While the land for these five institutes has been acquired and construction has started, “we are talking to leading pharma companies to contribute toward funding of these institutions,” said a senior official at the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, the nodal ministry for the institutes.
At that level of investment, it will be easier said than done.
D.G. Shah, secretary general, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, a group of Indian drugmakers, agrees that there is a case for such partnerships, but notes that developing the infrastructure, including land, buildings and laboratories, should remain the responsibility of the government.
The “private sector can at best contribute 15-20% of the cost of funding but not 80%. Pharmaceutical players can easily raise Rs200 crore and set up their own research centre, he says, adding, “What is the need for the government’s involvement?”
Last month, the Lok Sabha approved The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, empowering the Union government to set up such institutes in different parts of the country.
The institutes will start simultaneously with three post-graduate courses, including M.Pharma, pharma informatics, and an MBA with specialization in pharmaceuticals. The Institutes will be located in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Patna, Kolkata and Guwahati.
The institutes are intended to provide facilities for advanced research and education in the core and allied areas of pharmaceuticals. The first one at Mohali in Chandigarh, which was established under the Niper Act, 1998, has 240 students and 80 Ph.D. scholars.
However, the government is now looking at increased public-private partnership in the funding of institutions because, while the initial cost of these five institutions together was estimated to be Rs1,000 crore, the finance ministry is ready to give only Rs200 crore for all five institutions, or Rs40 crore for each Niper.
The ministry is looking at starting with 40 students in each of these three courses in all five Nipers.
“Starting with 200 students, we plan to take them to 1,000 in each of these courses in three years,” said the official, who didn’t want to be named. She also noted that the domestic pharmaceuticals industry, which grew from Rs5,000 crore in 1990-91 to around Rs55,000 crore today, will benefit significantly from the students coming out of these institutes.
Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd, for one, is looking forward to teaming up with the government. The company already has alliances with Niper, Mohali, and is looking forward to such public-private partnerships to extend the company’s in-house research and development capabilities, said Ramesh Adige, the company’s executive director.
The Mohali Niper has seen the involvement of the private sector, which has been availing of consultancy and services (including use of equipment) and paying for them. “Of the Rs4 crore earnings that we had this year, over Rs2 crore have been through the industry for use of our services,” said P. Rama Rao, director, Niper, Mohali.
He also said research centres from Canada, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and the UK have used facilities at Mohali.