S Sridhar, MD, Pfizer, elaborates on Pfizer-IIT Delhi Innovation and IP Program, which provides a platform for innovators seeking to solve identified healthcare challenges by creating indigenous healthcare solutions
How does this incubation programme work and what kind of a platform does Pfizer provide for innovators seeking comprehensive support to translate their healthcare ideas into patent?
The Pfizer-IIT Delhi Innovation and IP Program is a collaborative incubation accelerator, co-created by Pfizer India and Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer (FITT) at the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), Delhi. Aligned to the government’s vision of Startup India, Stand up India initiative, the programme provides a platform for innovators seeking to solve identified healthcare challenges by creating indigenous healthcare solutions.
The comprehensive support for the innovators provided by the Pfizer-IIT Delhi Innovation and IP Program include:
- Resident incubation at IIT Delhi’s bio-incubator for a period of up to two years
- Unencumbered funding of up to Rs 50 lakhs for each innovator to take ideas through proof of concept to IP
- Mentoring support from IIT Delhi’s faculty and FITT nominated experts
- Access to infrastructure, prototyping laboratories and space for setting up an office
- IP search and filing services
- Guidance from Pfizer’s global experts
- Access to venture capitalists and other industry linkages
For innovators who already have a proof of principle/ concept and are only looking for IP related support, the programme provides:
- Access to IP counseling services at FITT
- Funding support to cover patenting expenses
Can you share few examples of the novel innovative healthcare, pharma solutions, which have already received patent via this programme?
The Pfizer – IIT Delhi Innovation and IP programme is an incubation accelerator to bring healthcare ideas to life. It will support individuals and startups with resident incubation and funding through Idea to IP. The first year winners that were selected under the programme are currently in the patent filing stage.
Why partnership with IIT Delhi, how does it help the programme? Will it be expanded to other IIT’s as well?
IIT Delhi is one of the premier institutes of the country where the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation is encouraged and celebrated. At IIT Delhi, Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer (FITT) is an established industrial interface organisation that has seen some good results in the healthcare innovation space. FITT has incubated around 50 total start-ups, out of which 10 represent healthcare innovations.
Pfizer is a strong supporter of increasing awareness on the value of innovation. The company always looks forward to such collaborations and will explore similar associations with other academic institutions.
Do you think the environment to pursue science and technology-based innovation has improved. Is the National IPR policy providing space for healthcare industry to encourage such innovation?
Government of India has been providing substantial impetus to drive innovation in the country. Initiatives such as Start-Up India and Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) are promoting the culture of innovation and boosting entrepreneurship in India. More recently, NITI Ayog along with CII launched a mega initiative ‘India Innovation Index’ with an aim to make India an innovation-driven economy. The government is focussed on promoting more innovations in India. There is a consensus among various stakeholders that the innovation ecosystem must be continuously strengthened.
In May 2016, the union cabinet approved the National IPR policy, which focusses on initiatives that enhance access to healthcare and make medicines more affordable. The vision of universal healthcare in India will be possible through a sustained model wherein a scientific, economic and policy ecosystem promotes and rewards healthcare innovations. It has been observed that economies with the strongest IP protections are more likely to provide environments conducive to innovation. Furthermore, economies with IP protection in life sciences see more biomedical investment than those lacking IP protection.
Aligning with the government’s increased focus of driving innovation in India, we at Pfizer are encouraging innovators to come up with creative solutions for the healthcare industry by providing them support to translate their healthcare ideas into patents.
How many applicants have submitted their proposals? How was the response for the earlier phases?
The Pfizer IIT Delhi Innovation and IP programme has received a positive response from the healthcare innovation community with over 100 applications submitted in the first year of the programme. The applications that were submitted had tremendous potential and were scalable innovations that could be easily deployed for the betterment of the healthcare industry.
Why do you think that IPR is an important factor in healthcare/ pharma sector? How will it boost government initiatives like Start-up India and Make in India?
Intellectual property rights, especially patents, are the foundation of the pharma industry as it relies on innovations that can be applied in the future. Patents help innovators protect their innovations and generate return on their investments. The need of the hour is to develop innovative solutions for better healthcare in India. Supporting innovators by granting patents will encourage them to find and develop suitable solutions for the existing problems in the healthcare sector.
Pfizer is aligned to the government’s initiatives like Start-up India and Make in India and aims to contribute to these by encouraging Indian innovators and startups by providing support in IP filing. We have already seen promising results under the Pfizer – IIT Delhi Innovation and IP programme, with six innovators already having received support for IP filing services. For example, Valetude Primus Healthcare, a healthcare diagnostic solutions start-up, backed by the Pfizer-IIT Delhi Innovation and IP programme developed a portable, cost-effective device for early stage typhoid diagnosis within six hours, down from the usual 72 hours. Moreover, apart from the diagnostics tool being simple to manage and easily portable, its ‘cost effective’ factor, makes it a more viable option to cater to the rural masses.