Budget should incentivise biotech sector: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
As a sunrise industry, the biotechnology sector is looking up to the national budget, to be presented in parliament by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday, for a fillip in times of global recession and slowdown in the Indian economy.
"The government must incentivise R&D (research and development), especially in the biotechnology sector by providing a tax holiday for five years on any new product developed in-house," Biocon India chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw told IANS here.
Expressing the sector's budget expectations, Mazumdar-Shaw said the tax holiday should have a caveat that profits from the new product have to be re-invested in R&D so as to ensure that companies remained committed to creating newer and better drugs at lower costs.
"The tax holiday should be extended to all biotech products spanning biogenerics, diagnostics, industrial and biotech seeds. With the right political will, this budget can be a turning point towards a stronger, healthier and a more competitive India," she noted.
Seeking the government's support to the fledgling sector, Mazumdar-Shaw, the "queen" of India's biotech industry, said seed funding for developing new products was critical as innovation did not happen overnight.
"Innovation is a process that needs to be supported across the board spanning the industry, academia and market place. The government support by making earnings from innovation tax-free, provided they are re-invested in R&D," Mazumdar-Shaw argued.
Referring to the dismal scenario where less than one percent of the GDP was being spent on healthcare, Mazumdar-Shaw said massive investments were needed in the health sector, as there were only 1.5 beds, 0.6 doctors and 0.08 nurses per thousand people in the country of over a billion people.
According to her, the government should move away from being an unsuccessful healthcare provider to focus on ensuring that every Indian has access to affordable healthcare through a public-private-partnership (PPP) model.
For instance, micro-credit institutions can be roped in to deliver health insurance. With small contribution from each family and the government chipping in the rest, affordable healthcare can become a reality for even the rural poor.
"Affordable medicines can lower the cost of healthcare plan. We have to develop a national health scheme that delivers care to those who need it at a cost that does not kill," Mazumdar-Shaw averred.
Noting that Indian companies had a very big role to play in the global biotech industry, Mazumdar-Shaw said being a knowledge-sharing sector, partnering model was gaining a lot of momentum even at academia and university levels.
"To me, the outlook for the Indian biotech sector is very promising as the world recognizes that you cannot create new knowledge in silos but by having partnerships and collaboration," Mazumdar-Shaw affirmed.
With English-speaking talent as human capital, Indian firms and universities are at an advantage to forge alliances in Europe and the US.
"As opposed to the Chinese, Taiwanese or Korean firms, it is easier for us to partner with Western firms though science foundation is very strong in all these countries. It is the English language that comes to our rescue."