India: Why is the country ramping up drug discovery research?

India on globe

DDW’s Megan Thomas takes a deeper look into why India is ramping up drug discovery research, and explores the country’s innovation hubs of interest.

In the global pharmaceuticals market, India ranks third worldwide for production by volume and the domestic pharmaceutical market is expected to reach US$120-130 billion by 20301. According to a report by Deloitte, globally India is the third largest in the world by volume and 11th by value, comprising over 3,000 pharma companies and 10,500 manufacturing facilities2. To many, the country is referred to as the ‘pharmacy of the world’. So, what is driving this success, and will it continue?


According to a McKinsey report on the Indian pharmaceutical market, drug prices in India are among the lowest in the world, driven by intense generics competition3. Similarly, The Times of India says that branded generic medicines have “long fuelled India’s pharmaceutical exports”4. The India Brand Equity Foundation confirms that India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally and is known for its affordable vaccines and generic medications1. As per the foundation’s February 2023 report, India is ranked third in pharmaceutical production by volume (despite being 10th globally in terms of value), and has evolved into a booming industry growing at a CAGR of 9.43% over the past nine years1.

Moreover, the India Brand Equity Foundation report reveals that more than half of global demand for various vaccines – 40% of generic demand in the US and 25% of all medicine in the UK – are supplied by India1. According to Invest India, India is a major exporter of pharmaceuticals, with over 200 countries served by Indian pharma exports and supplies more than half of Africa’s requirement for generics, as well as approximately 40% of generic demand in the US and approximately 25% of all medicine in the UK5.


According to Invest India, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is expected to reach $65 billion by 2024 and to $130 billion by 20305. This is aided by governmental Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes which encourage early investments6. Examples of such schemes include the Scheme for Strengthening of Pharmaceuticals Industry (SPI), the PLI scheme for Pharmaceuticals, as well as the PLI Scheme for Promotion of Domestic Manufacturing of Critical Key Starting Materials (KSMs)/ Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) in the country, to name a few6. A report by PWC shared that the pharmaceutical industry’s main markets are under ‘serious pressure’7.

It says that the industry is bracing itself and is looking at newer ways to drive growth, stating: “Global players in the pharma industry cannot afford to ignore India. The country, many predict, will be the most populous in the world by 2050. India will make its mark as a growing market, potential competitor or partner in manufacturing and R&D, and as a location for clinical trials.”7

While external investment is essential, so is governmental support and investment. According to the Economic Times, the Indian government has begun stakeholder consultations to identify ‘moonshot’ projects8. This will include the establishment of seven centres of excellence (CoE) to undertake research, which will be government institutions such as National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPERs) and India Institute of Technologies (IITs)8.

Institutions and academia

The success of a country’s drug discovery output is closely linked to the institutions and academia, and India is ensuring it remains competitive on this front. One such example is the Centre for Drug Discovery and Development at Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology in the city of Chennai. The centre was established in 2013 at the university with the goal to discover novel drugs to fight against life threatening infectious diseases including tuberculosis (TB), Acquired Immuno Deficiency syndrome (AIDS), Dengue and non-infectious diseases including cancer, diabetes and more9. The centre has a BSL III facility available for TB and HIV research and considers itself to have unique capabilities for antimycobacterial and antiviral drug discovery from natural resources and synthetic compounds8.

Another example in an academic setting is the Drug Design and Development Centre (DDDC) which is part of the Faculty of Pharmacy at MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences in Bangalore, and mostly covers drug design, pharmacological screening, analytical method development, formulation development, and stability studies for herbal, intermediates and synthetic drugs10.

Outside of academia, there are institutions such as the CSIR- Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), a multidisciplinary research laboratory in Lucknow11. As a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), which the Government of India established in September 1942 as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India, the CDRI has evolved into an R&D organisation with end-to-end expertise for fundamental chemical and biomedical research.

Genome Valley

Moving away from individual institutions or centres and onto the idea of ‘hubs’, Genome Valley in Hyderabad is perhaps the most significant. It was commissioned in 1999 and is considered India’s first structured hub for life sciences R&D. It is India’s largest multi-tenanted lab space infrastructure cluster in a single location, with the addition of over 250,000 sq ft of laboratory space annually12.

With over 200 companies from 18 countries, Genome Valley is home to a number of national and multinational companies, including, but not limited to, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Ferring Pharma, Chemo, DuPont, Ashland, United States Pharmacopeia, and Lonza, as well as small and medium businesses (SMBs)12. In February 2023, US-based Bristol Myers Squibb chose Hyderabad to set up its Science, Technology and Innovation Centre and will invest $100 million and will employ 1,500 people13. Before that, in October 2022, Yapan Bio expanded its capabilities with a new process development facility at Genome Valley, which has enhanced its ability to support end-to-end development and manufacturing of RNA, DNA and gene therapy products starting from plasmids.

The growth and potential in Genome Valley are expressed in the continuous investment in the hub. For instance, again in February 2023, just a year after it made a debut at Hyderabad’s Genome Valley, Gland Pharma, a generic injectable manufacturer with a focus on CDMO business and supplies, invested 400 crore (approximately $48.6 million) at the city’s life sciences hub14. According to Talangana Today, the state initially set a target to double the life sciences value from $50 billion to $100 billion by 2030, but based on the momentum in the sector, the schedule is advanced to 2028 and IT and Industries Minister KT Rama Rao told Talangana Today that this target could be achieved even earlier than 202813.

Ultimately, growth in not just the Genome Valley region but India at large should continue as long as it remains competitive in terms of generics, investment, research output, production and manufacturing, and innovation. The building blocks are all there and the support needed is improving, particularly from government in recent years.

DDW Volume 24 – Issue 3, Summer 2023


  1. pharmaceutical-india
  2. health/2020/03/the-indian- pharmaceutical-industry-the- pharmacy-of-the-world.html
  3. media/mckinsey/dotcom/ client_service/Pharma%20and%20 Medical%20Products/PMP%20NEW/ PDFs/778886_India_Pharma_2020_ Propelling_Access_and_Acceptance_ Realising_True_Potential.ashx
  4. blogs/voices/why-branded-generics/
  5. pharmaceuticals#:~:text=The%20 pharmaceutical%20industry%20in%20 India,currently%20valued%20at%20 %2450%20Bn.
  6. schemes
  7. life-sciences/pdf/global-pharma- looks-to-india-final.pdf
  8. https://economictimes.indiatimes. com/industry/healthcare/biotech/ pharmaceuticals/government- steps-up-efforts-to-drive-innovation- in-pharmaceutical-sector/ articleshow/97888378.cms
  10. centres/dddc-drug-design- development-centre
  12. about/genome-valley
  13. myers-squibb-to-establish-facility-in- hyderabad
  14. https://timesofindia.indiatimes. com/city/hyderabad/gland- pharma-to-invest-400cr-in-genome- valley-and-expand-its-footprint-in- telangana/articleshow/98106619. cms?from=mdr

Related Articles

Join FREE today and become a member
of Drug Discovery World

Membership includes:

  • Full access to the website including free and gated premium content in news, articles, business, regulatory, cancer research, intelligence and more.
  • Unlimited App access: current and archived digital issues of DDW magazine with search functionality, special in App only content and links to the latest industry news and information.
  • Weekly e-newsletter, a round-up of the most interesting and pertinent industry news and developments.
  • Whitepapers, eBooks and information from trusted third parties.
Join For Free