“Innovations played a major role in India’s pandemic response”

Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, CEO and Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), shares his thoughts on the India’s biotech R&D

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Taslimarif Saiyed is the Director and CEO of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP). Prior to joining C-CAMP, he worked as a Scientist with University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), studying neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease. He holds a doctorate in Neuroscience from Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research, Germany. 
In an exclusive interaction, Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, CEO and Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), shared his thoughts on the India’s biotech R&D, evolving innovation ecosystem, and much more. Read the excerpts:

BV LogoWhat do you consider as key milestones of the Indian biotech R&D during the last 3 decades?  
Indian biotech R&D has made significant advances in multiple sectors including pharma where we have built sustained capabilities towards developing drugs, not just generics but including novel drugs, biologics and now biopharma.
We have made huge strides in medical devices where we are seeing indigenous development of world-class technologies. I have faith that going forward this sector in health-tech will have great outcomes in making high quality medical devices affordable and accessible by all.
Agriculture biotech is the third area where Indian technology is at the global cutting-edge. We have several such examples. The most recent one of GMO Mustard seed that has received regulatory approval demonstrates the coming of age of agri biotech. The fourth development that I need to pick out is the quantum leap in R&D capabilities both in industry and academia which augurs well for the future of S&T in India in terms of social, financial and economic dividends going forward.
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Do you agree that our attitude towards R&D during the pandemic has witnessed significant acceleration? What is different now? 
I completely agree that there has been significant change in the public outlook of R&D since the pandemic. Across the world, science is now publicly regarded as a crucial tool to build solutions for larger good. The pandemic created a massive push for innovation in solutions. Innovations played a major role in India’s pandemic response from diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics, PPE, medical technology, digital technology and others.
This problem-solving mindset has now permeated outside of healthcare as well. I now see an enhanced interest in building technology and innovating for larger societal impact. The key for the ecosystem would be to keep this momentum going post-COVID and not letting the pace and dynamism dip going forward.

“I now see an enhanced interest in building technology and innovating for larger societal impact”

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Your mantra for sustaining the R&D momentum achieved during the pandemic? 
As a country we have traditionally shown innovative thinking, preparedness and scientific rigor during crisis. Unfortunately, this soundness of response hasn’t been consistent post crisis. We need to address this gap, learn lessons from what worked and what didn’t during crisis management and incorporate these learning systemically to initiate change.
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Outlook for the R&D funding and policy within the biotech sector?
The pandemic very clearly promoted a conducive environment for supporting R&D at national and state government levels as also in industry, non-governmental, corporate level. The momentum for change has been built now. What is required now is a 5-year booster plan in policymaking levels to capitalize on the larger social consciousness and high emotions. A push incentive for innovation now will help consolidate the huge gains we have made nationwide in R&D during the pandemic.

**This interview was first published in ‘December 2022’ issue of BioVoice eMagazine.