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Dependence on imported APIs worrisome: Nirmala

Commerce and industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday raised serious concerns over increasing imports of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and asked the experts and industry to work in the direction to reduce the dependence on imports.

"When we are setting up pharmaceutical and biotechnology hubs... the dependence on imported APIs worries me a lot," she said here at the Global Biotechnology Summit here.

Sitharaman said as India is a global hub of generic medicines and biotechnology centres, industry, academia and experts should work in reducing the increasing imports.

India is hugely dependent on China for import of the APIs, which are the raw materials for medicines.

Indian firms imported APIs and intermediates worth nearly $3 billion in 2010-11 with China alone accounting for $1.88 billion. The minister said both developing and developed countries are dependent on India for affordable generic medicines.

Further, the commerce ministry is requesting the states to give additional concessions in special economic zones to the pharma related units to reduce the API imports.

Talking about startups, she said the government's action plan for the sector focuses on all kinds of startups including areas related with biotechnology sector and not only on IT and e-commerce. "We hope that 1,000 to 1,500 starts will come in another four years, who will be focusing on biotechnology," she said adding the Department of Pharmaceuticals are expected to launch a Rs 1,000 crore venture capital fund in order to help start-ups which will focus on bio-technology.

The move would give a boost to the domestic pharma industry and provide cheaper loans to entities looking to establish or upgrade manufacturing facilities. Sitharaman also said the ministry is taking steps to make the patent regime easier and simpler for startups. The ministry is recruiting more people and modernising the patent offices to reduce the pendency of applications, she said adding India has the second largest number of institutions approved by the the USFDA after America.

"It shows the kind of experts and perfection in the field of bio-technology," she said. She expressed confidence that India would meet the target of the turning biotechnology into a $100 billion industry by 2025.

Speaking at the occasion, MoS Science and Technology Y S Chowdary said the next decade is going to be the biotechnology revolution after the 25 years of IT revolution. Chowdary said there is a need to involve centre, state, industry, NGOs and other stakeholders to promote the biotechnology sector in the country.
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