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Regenerative Medicine in India: Opportunities for the UK

By Sunil Kumar M, Senior Science and Innovation Adviser, British Deputy High Commission, Bangalore.

More than five million people in India die annually due to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, obesity, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The World Health Organisation paints a dismal health scenario by 2015 when NCD deaths are projected to increase by 60% in India. NCDs along with other diseases are making a significant dent on the economy and straining the health systems. To address this problem, India is looking increasingly at tapping the potential of regenerative medicine and has initiated Research and Development work.

The Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology has allocated more than £40 million over the last five years towards basic and applied research in stem cell technology. This funding is set to continue in the future as India aims to double its research funding in the next Five Year Plan ( from 2012 to 2017). More than 40 regenerative medicine institutes (such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Centre for Stem Cells Research, Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, National Centre for Biological Sciences) and companies (such as Reliance Lifesciences and Stempeutics) across India are working towards realising the potential of this treatment. One successful case study has been the Hyderabad-based L V Prasad Eye Institute which tackled hundreds of cases of corneal damage using stem cells with nearly 80% success rate.

The regenerative medicine market is said to grow steadily in India. According to reports, of the $1 billion market worldwide, India is expected to garner a 30% share by 2014. The stem cells industry is said to grow at a rate of about 14% per annum in India, and the stem cell banking business is estimated to grow to about 35% over the year. Considering the huge market potential, many global players are also eyeing this space.

Opportunities exist for collaborative research and treatment in India using either niche technologies or the research base from the UK.

The research space in regenerative medicine is expanding in India. Opportunities exist for collaborative research and treatment in India using either niche technologies or the research base from the UK. For example, Nichi-In Center for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM in Chennai, South India) is an Indo-Japanese joint venture institute. It provides Autologous NK cell based immuno-cell therapy (AIET) for cancer and stem cell isolation, enrichment and expansion services to partner hospitals in India for various diseases.

Indian companies are looking to license-in technologies/ research/training in regenerative medicine (including tissue and organ regeneration) from overseas organisations, and UK research institutes/companies could be well placed to offer them. As India offers a large patient population base, UK organisations in partnership with Indian research institutes/companies can help in lowering the treatment costs which can then be scaled up globally.


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