New Delhi: The Union government has allocated 700 crore for establishing centres of excellence at the National Institutes of Pharmaceutical, Education & Research (NIPER).

According to a notice issued by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, the steering committee has approved a budget outlay of 700 crore for setting up of these centres over a period of five years. Out of the 700 crore, a sum of 243 crore has been approved for 2024-25.

Currently there are seven NIPERs—located in Mohali, Ahmedabad, Hajipur, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Guwahati and Rae Bareli.

As per the Department of Pharmaceuticals, the first steering committee meeting for the scheme was held on 27 March.

While India is known for affordable generic drugs, research and development is a key area that needs attention in the Indian pharma industry, as drugmakers face scrutiny for allegedly selling toxic cough syrups in Gambia and Uzbekistan.

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Existing NIPERs to concentrate on research

The seven existing NIPERs will concentrate on research in a variety of areas, including medical device manufacturing, bulk drug R&D, phytopharmaceuticals, biological therapeutics, and antiviral and antibacterial drug discovery and development.

Instead of the formerly common batch processing procedure, the focus in Kolkata will be on building production methods that include the latest continuous flow chemistry technology.

According to then health minister Mansukh Mandaviya the Union Cabinet had last year approved the Promotion of Research and Innovation in Pharma-MedTech sector (PRIP) scheme with an outlay of 5,000 crore for five years, from 2023-24 to 2027-28. The scheme will be in two parts: preparing capacity in PSUs; provide support to private sector for research.

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Last year, the Parliamentary Panel headed by Shashi Tharoor, that looks into the fund allocation to the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) had recommended that the government allocate more funds for new initiatives, such as the establishment of the National Institute of Medical Devices Education and Research (NIMERs) and Indian Council of Research & Development and Innovation in Pharma-MedTech Sector (ICPMR).

It was mentioned that the Department had asked for 1, 286 crore for FY24. Of this amount, 560 crore had been requested for NIPERs, and the remaining amount was to be used for other new initiatives under the NIPER scheme, such as 200 crore for NIMERs, 233 crore for Centres of Excellence (CoEs), 50 crore for ICPMR, and 243.00 crore for Promotion of Research & Innovation in Pharmaceutical Sector).

However, only 550 was set aside for NIPERs; no money was given for these new projects. Considering the aforementioned, the Committee’s initial report suggested that financial allocation for the NIPER scheme be increased, even if it noted that no funding for new initiatives would negatively impact the plan’s development and expansion.