CHENNAI: For a state that is a hub for medical tourism, Tamil Nadu figures low as a healthcare innovation and R&D hub. Barring medical devices manufacturing, it has lost out to neighbours Telangana and Karnataka. However, industry trackers say there are green shoots. Most experts TOI spoke to pin their hopes on the IIT-Madras ecosystem.
It houses both a healthcare incubation facility (Healthcare Technology Innovation Centre (HTIC) and medtech incubator)and a biotech incubator where startups are working on the next big technology in healthcare. The HTIC has incubated 45 startups in areas such as deep learning and computer vision in diagnostics, noninvasive cancer screening, VR-based surgery training, and assistive technology for persons with disablities. Further, two of the world’s largest pharma players AstraZeneca and Pfizer have set up their research, technology and business services arm in Tamil Nadu.
Hence, experts say, talent and investment are set to flow into the state. Since 2014, AstraZeneca’s Global Innovation and Technology Centre (GITC)and Gobal Business Services (GBS) organisation have been housed in the IT corridor of Chennai with around 2,500employees now. The centre undertakes cutting-edge technology development and handles the end-to-end value chain of the business.
From building virtual reality-based tools to support and guide clinical trials patients to working on VR centric programs to train shop floor staff on complex lines without pausing production, the centre focuses on speeding up the concept-to-market process of AstraZeneca’s global products. “An example is our Covid vaccines where the time to market was in months not years. Alot of that is attributable to what we dohere,” says Siva Padmanabhan, managing director, AstraZeneca India. “We have also driven innovation through the startups we have supported,” he adds. These include Tricog, Predible and Qure. ai and collaborations with IIT-M and Sastra University.
Pfizer’s recent entry can also be an inflection point for healthcare innovation. It has a drug development centre at IIT-Madras’s research park at an initial investment of ₹150 crore. “This centre is located close to a multidisciplinary research cluster as well as IIT-Madras. It has close access to the tech corridor, which supports our ambitions for digital acceleration, as well as young industry players and start-ups,” says S Sridhar, country manager, Pfizer India. Tamil Nadu is also drawing up a life sciences policy to address both the manufacturing and research in pharma and life sciences sector.
Recognising that innovation ecosystems tend to grow around manufacturing clusters, the govt is setting up a drug manufacturing park with an investment of ₹155 crore in Tindivanam in partnership with the Indian Drugs Manufacturers Association. Zoho-backed vTitan, a medical devices maker, originally started with design and development of syringe infusion pumps. The company now works on more than a dozen medical devices for respiratory care, radiology, cardiac care and remote patient monitoring. “There is a highly talented pool of medical and engineering professionals available in the state, which is vital to pursue R&D,”says Prasad Maganti, CEO, vTitan. Sameer Mehta, chief investment director, Atlas Family Office and vice chairman Dr Mehta’s Hospitals, is one of the few healthcare tech-focused angel investors in TN.
He says the state urgently needs more investors to support healthcare tech startups with patient capital. “We also need an anchor entity around which innovation can grow. Dr Reddy’s played this role for Hyderabad ,and Bengaluru has Biocon. IIT-Madras’ HTIC is emerging as a hub that is nurturing innovation here,” he says. Dr Muthu Singaram, CEO of HTIC ,says R&D is all about talent. “While youngsters typically don’t have the patience to go through the long gestation periods involved in healthcare tech ventures, we are seeing that change in the last 3-5 years, ”he says.
Pharma, nutraceuticals and biotech are among the sunrise sectors identified by the state government
There are more than 400 pharma companies specializing in bulk drugs, API, Formulations and Medical Devices in TN
More than 70 institutes providing a range of pharma & biotech degrees and diplomas in the state
TN has global pharma and medical device manufacturers such as Trivitron Healthcare, Titan Corporation, etc.
TN mainly exports surgicals, medical devices, ayush & herbal products, bulk drugs and bulk drug intermediaries
Chennai is also a leading destination for medical tourism globally offering huge potential for healthcare R&D and innovation
There are 2,600+ biotech startups are incorporated in India with just around 140 (5%) from Tamil Nadu and hence there is huge scope for growth Source