India's pharmaceutical companies are gearing up to become a major global player, not only in producing low-price generic medicines but also as innovators in drugs and vaccines, according to a study.
"India is innovating its way out of poverty," said Nature Technology study co-author Peter Singer of the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in Toronto.
India could revolutionise biotechnology on the basis of its large and increasingly well-educated workforce, just as it did information technology, Singer believes.
The costs are considerably lower for companies operating in India, the study published in the April 9 issue of the journal says, citing as an example the way the 1997 launch of an Indian hepatitis B vaccine cut prices to one-thirtieth.
"The biotech industry is globalising rapidly," Singer said, adding that the world market for generics was expected to increase significantly in the next few years as several major drugs lost patent protection.
India is well placed to take advantage of this, according to the study that looked at 21 Indian firms.
The authors caution, however, that the lure of profits on the world market could distract attention from research into illnesses typical of developing countries.
The study was published ahead of a conference in Toronto May 2-4 of biotech firms from the US, Canada, India, China, Brazil and Africa.