Amritapuri, Vallikavu, Kerala 690525
Ramani A. Aiyer, Ph.D., MBA
Principal, Shasta BioVentures, San Jose, CA, USA
New Drug R&D in India: Challenges & Opportunities
New drug discovery and development has become a global endeavor, with Western big pharmaceutical companies farming out more and more chemistry and biology research to Asia, particularly India and China. During the last decade, several Indian pharmaceutical companies have embarked on ambitious R&D programs, with slow but steady progress in developing new chemical / molecular entities. The Indian government has also made a strong commitment to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the biotechnology sector. The first part of the talk will focus on a case study showing the entire process of discovery and development of a new drug recently launched for Rheumatoid Arthritis. We will then address the challenges of conducting innovative R&D in India and actions necessary to overcome them. The second part of the talk will make the case for developing Ayurvedic drug formulations for the Western / Global markets, again using the example of Rheumatoid Arthritis (Aamavaata). Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to disease diagnosis and therapy based on interactions among body type (prakriti), tri-doshas (three body humors), sapta-dhatus (seven tissues) and malas (excretions). The drugs prescribed are usually herbo-mineral formulations comprising multiple medicinal plants and / or metals. The manufacturing processes date back to Ayurvedic texts several thousand years old, and are compiled in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia. Also, the treatment modalities and drug formulations are “personalized” to fit different patient types, based on the holistic diagnoses mentioned earlier. There is a tremendous need to establish a sound basis for Ayurvedic drug discovery R&D for the modern world. We must find a scientific and ethical way to leverage the vast body of anecdotal and possibly retrospective data on patients undergoing Ayurvedic treatment. Combined with in vitro and in vivo biological data on Ayurvedic herbo-mineral formulations, the adoption of stringent manufacturing practices, and designing sound clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy, India has a golden opportunity to expand the reach of Ayurvedic drugs into Western / Global medical practice.