Economic, political and supply chain upheaval in the last two years has led the pharmaceutical industry to shift gears. Many drug discovery projects that were outsourced to China have been moved to India, where contract research organizations (CROs) have established themselves as world-class chemistry service providers. A cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, details how Indian CROs are making a big impact on the chemical enterprise.
Historically, pharmaceutical manufacturers have been heavily invested in contracting with companies in China, where the market and workforce are large and well-funded by the state, writes special correspondent Vanessa Zainzinger. With political tensions increasing between the U.S. and China, drug companies have pivoted toward contracting with firms in India, where scientists are both highly qualified and relatively inexpensive to hire. Western companies have typically engaged CROs in India to conduct the more mundane research tasks at a lower cost, but in recent years Indian firms have moved toward acting as true partners in drug discovery. As a result, Indian CROs are now investing in top-notch research facilities and hiring top scientists from major corporations like AstraZeneca, which lends both experience and credibility to them.
Indian CROs are also expanding their presence beyond South Asia by building sites in the U.S. and Europe, where they can recruit further talent and build stronger relationships with clients. While the low cost of hiring an Indian scientist versus a Western one remains a primary incentive for companies, the CROs have been highly effective collaborators in complex research and development projects. For example, biotechnology companies partnered with Indian firms last year to design inhibitors of the SARS-CoV-2 protease, with the goal of finding an oral drug to treat COVID-19. CROs are hoping to make further headway into the biotech sphere, where they can provide expertise to smaller startups and diversify their scientific contributions. In terms of cost, experts say that China and India are on equal footing, but India has the advantage of a lower language barrier and fewer political tensions with the West. Considering all these factors, insiders see India becoming a true scientific powerhouse in the coming years.
The article, “Big ambitions for India’s contract research firms,” is freely available here.
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