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Will see a move towards greater digitisation, use of AI and Big Data to hasten drug formulation to trial process: Nikhil K Masurkar

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Nikhil K Masurkar, Executive Director, ENTOD Pharmaceutical

In many ways, 2020 was a watershed year for healthcare and pharma sectors which remained at the forefront of the global response against COVID 19. Even as they were hailed as ‘heroes’ of the pandemic, healthcare workers also fared the worst. In September, Amnesty International estimated that least 7,000 health workers had died around the world due to COVID-19, over 500 in India alone.

The pharma sector on the other hand played a central role in devising a drug-vaccine response. In record time, as many as seven vaccines stand approved in various parts of the world with at least 10 others in phase 3 of trials. The pharma sector was also one of the good performers of 2020 – a year when recessionary pressures pulled down multiple industries.

Indian pharma industry which is a major global supplier worked aggressively to meet the rising global demand of HCQS, Remdesivir and Ivermectin – drugs used in COVID management. However, the year also came with a reality check. The disruption of supplies from China brought home the realisation that excessive dependence on imports of APIs from that country was not sustainable for the Indian industry. Taking cue, the government and the industry have launched efforts to re-develop indigenous manufacturing capacity of key ingredients and bulk drugs.

With most global efforts focused on a COVID response, non-COVID disease research and trials also suffered a setback in 2020. As we approach 2021, we are looking to carrying forward the learnings from the global pandemic as well as its impact on the industry. We will see a move towards greater digitisation, use of AI and Big Data to hasten the drug formulation to trial process. The industry will hopefully also resume its halted trials for other diseases as COVID outbreak subsides.

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