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G20: India pitches for collaborative R&D, coordinated resource allocation

Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Bhagwant Khuba delivered the inaugural address at side-event of the 3rd G20 Health Working Group Meeting, titled, “Strengthening Global Collaboration Network on Research and Development in Medical Countermeasures (Diagnostics, Vaccines and Therapeutics) with a focus on Future Health Emergencies”, here today. He was also joined by Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog.

The purpose of the event was to reinforce the second priority of India’s G20 Presidency, which is to strengthen cooperation in the pharmaceutical sector with a focus on access and availability of quality, effective, safe, and affordable medical countermeasures (MCM). Given the importance of focusing equally on each component of the Vaccine, Therapeutics, and Diagnostics (VTD) value chains, India’s G20 Presidency has been discussing how to coordinate the various aspects of the upstream and downstream facets of the MCM ecosystem.

Addressing the gathering, Bhagwant Khuba emphasized on the need to strengthen existing health architectures and be better prepared for responding to recurring outbreaks and future pandemics. He said that “countries worldwide have come to realize the importance of research and development collaboration in providing novel solutions to emerging health challenges.”

Bhagwant Khuba stated that collaborative research enables the pooling of expertise and resources from multiple disciplines and institutions, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of diseases and the development of more effective VTDs. He said, “engaging with global health organizations and stakeholders for research and development collaboration would facilitate coordinated resource allocation, ensuring that resources such as funding, medical supplies, personnel, and information are distributed effectively and efficiently. By aligning priorities, duplication of efforts can be minimized, and resources can be directed to areas and populations most in need”.

The Union Minister emphasized that the Global R&D Network is aligned with the principles of India’s G20 ideology, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – One Earth, One Family, One Future and is aimed at fostering collaboration in accessing safe, effective, quality, and affordable Medical Countermeasures (VTDs). “This initiative aims to enhance cooperation and partnerships among nations in global research and innovation for VTDs, with the ultimate goal of ensuring universal access to these essential medical resources”, he said.

Bhagwant Khuba noted that “India’s presidency of the G20 has focused on fostering international collaboration to address pressing global issues, as specified by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, recognizing the interconnectedness and shared responsibilities of nations in finding solutions to these challenges”. Emphasizing that India has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to research and innovation, at global platforms such as the World Health Assembly, World Economic Forum, and G7, among others, he said, “the primary objective of this collaborative effort is to optimize research and innovation endeavors in prioritized areas and diseases”.

Highlighting India’s efforts towards collaborative research, he stated that “India has taken an important step towards collaborative research and development at the national level through the National Biopharma Mission, an Industry-Academia Collaborative Mission aimed at accelerating early development for biopharmaceuticals, offering promising opportunities for collaboration”. “Another notable example of national collaboration also includes Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), jointly initiated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)”, he stated.

The Union Minister said that India’s recognition as the pharmacy of the world is an appreciation of the pivotal role of its pharmaceutical companies in driving better health outcomes globally. He highlighted that “Indian pharma companies have established themselves as reliable and affordable suppliers of high-quality drugs, making significant contributions to improved access to healthcare worldwide.” He further stated that “India provides approximately 60% of the global vaccine supply, accounts for 20-22% of generic exports and stands as a major exporter of pharmaceuticals, serving over 200 countries through its pharma exports.” “The nation supplies more than 45% of Africa’s generics requirements, around 40% of generic demand in the US, and approximately 25% of all generic medicine in the UK.”

He also highlighted India’s role in strengthening global efforts to overcome health challenges. He stated that “India’s first indigenous vaccine, which is not only cost-effective and of high quality but also tailored to the specific needs of the local population, provided a reliable and accessible solution to the world.” “India also extended its assistance to over 96 nations by delivering essential medical supplies and vaccines through the “Vaccine Maitri” initiative”, he said.

S Aparna stated that there is an urgent need to foster innovation and strengthen the R&D of safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable medical countermeasures especially in the changing landscape driven by the interplay between climate change and disease transmission. She stated that “by pooling resources and expertise through collaborative research networks, we can accelerate the pace of discovery and innovation and by fostering collaboration, we can harness the collective expertise and resources required to effectively respond to global health threats and improve health outcomes.”

The Union Pharma Secretary stated that “when establishing a global R&D network, it is crucial to set the right context by prioritizing specific areas across variables such as disease, product and technology”. “Prioritization will be a necessary step towards an effective R&D network based on a comprehensive and balanced strategy to promote global health equity”, she stated.

Rajesh Bhushan underscored the critical role of collaborative platforms like the proposed Global MCM Coordination Platform under India’s G20 Presidency. He stated that “the Global MCM Coordination Platform is envisaged as a vital mechanism for strengthening coordination and collaboration in the development and distribution of medical countermeasures. It is critical that the platform encompasses concerted efforts in R&D in a focused manner to generate viable and responsive solution for preventive, surveillance and treatment countermeasures for all”. He also emphasized on the importance of integrating “One Health” approach in research and development efforts.

Dr Rajiv Bahl, Secretary, Dept. of Health Research and DG-ICMR; G Kamala Vardhana Rao, CEO, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI); Lav Agarwal, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; Abhay Thakur, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs and Sous Sherpa of India’s G20 Presidency and other senior officials of the Union Government were also present on the occasion.
MB Bureau

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