Industry Day : Interview with Dr. Sanjay Singh

Dr. Sanjay Singh, CEO and Executive Director of Gennova Biopharmaceuticals obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from CDRI, Lucknow, and later worked on malaria vaccine development at ICGEB, New Delhi. He then worked at the NIH, Bethesda, USA where he eventually headed the Antigen Research Section at the Malaria Vaccine Development Branch of NIAID, NIH, USA. During his tenure at the NIH, he was successful in taking four recombinant vaccine candidates from target identification to phase I human clinical trials. At Gennova, his leadership has facilitated the launch of several bio therapeutics in the market within a short span. In an interview ahead of the Industry Day he talks about the major challenges in industry-academia collaboration and more.

How do you see events like Industry Day forge better Academia-Industry collaborations?

 

These events are important as faculties, students and research scholars can interact with people from Biopharmaceutical Industry. The mutual areas of interest can be explored. Students get to know about the kind of work Biopharma Industry in general is focused on and what drives innovation in an industrial setting.

Concept wise it shows intent of the academia to initiate such activities of engaging the industry with the hope of effectively complementing the industrial strengths. This initiative is appreciated and should be ably supported by participants from both sides.

One theme which has emerged in the last few years is affordability of drugs in both developing and developed countries. Academia can play a critical role in this endeavor. Academia can be good partner in performing initial studies like proof of concept studies, animal efficacy studies etc. for which academic labs are well suited.

Second, can we solve our present problems by combining the knowledge of Academia-Industry, one of the example being addressing Japanese encephalitis in Eastern UP.

 

Please give a brief about the subject on which you will be talking.

 

I will be speaking on State of Indian Biopharmaceutical Industry.

As a business, I run an Indian Biopharmaceutical Industry that drives on high-end technology, innovation and demands high value investments. On skill set front, we need highly educated and trained people to run day to day activities. In the field of biomanufacturing, be it R & D or Manufacturing, in order to be a major player we need to constantly innovate.

Many factors play important role in this process and one of the most important is that we cannot innovate in isolation. We have to have collaborations. One of our “collaboration” that facilitated affordable healthcare reach in a remote rural area where such treatment options were unprecedented. My talk is focused on the merit of collaborative efforts across complementing strength, bringing them together to get the desired outcome.

 

In the field of affordable health care specifically what are the major challenges in collaboration with academia? How can these be overcome?

 

There are few serious challenges in collaboration with academia. I am listing out some general points which may or may not be applicable to all academic labs.

a. The adherence to timeline and delivering a cost-effective solution and accountability is often a perceived hurdle in collaborating with academia.

b. A clear definition on why collaboration is required is needed. Science and Technology goes hand in hand. Academia is opening nowadays more to industry due to Governmental inclination for finding applicability of their work in real world. We expect academic research should direct industry not the other way round. Research from academia should offer exciting solutions to Industry which are of interest to Industry – so Industry should start taking risk in difficult projects.

To overcome these challenges, one must eliminate the root cause of it. The industrial excellence and academic achievements are measured by different yardsticks. Industrial sponsored research in academia often does not yield a publication. Academic achievement is measured by impact factor of the research conducted in the academic lab. A different yardstick needs to be designed for the academic partner for motivating them to undertake and solve problem pertaining to industry.

c. Academic institution can restructure their mentoring approach or programs so that the trained manpower has clearer vision to think and plan their career way forward.

 

How do you see the academia helping the industry in technological intervention or CSR initiatives with reference to affordable health care?

 

As mentioned above the academic labs should focus on:
a. Identifying the problems where they can work with an Industry
b. New drugs and new drug target discovery
c. Innovation in process

All three can be provided by academic research to the industry – paving way to affordable health care.