December 20, 2005

India's National Centre of Research Resources (NCRR) is to provide US$18.2mn in funding to create two new biomedical centres in the country. The state-of-the-art facilities will develop new image-guided therapies as well as conduct biochemistry studies of diseases such as alcoholism and cancer.

India's government is keen to develop its biotechnology sector and has recently invested in the International Biotech Park (IPB), located in Pune. The IPB is scheduled for completion in 2007-08, and 15 companies have already expressed interest in setting up units in the facility. Meanwhile, market sources forecast that the biotech industry could benefit as 11 blockbuster drugs — worth US$13.5bn globally — lose patent protection in 2006.

However, the sudden rush of drug companies coming to India to conduct clinical research is a cause for concern, according to the American Journal of Bioethics. It warns of drugmakers exploiting poverty-stricken and poorly educated members of the Indian population to conduct clinical trials.

In this regard, two Indian companies have recently come under scrutiny for conducting illegal clinical trials that led to eight deaths. As a result, the government has imposed stricter ethical guidelines, although it is too early to know whether companies are abiding by these rules