I put together a mini-presentation in 2016 on how entrepreneurial leadership can transform the biotech startup ecosystem in India.Entrepreneurial-Leadership-Life-Sciences-Innovation-in-India
There remains a poor appetite for biotech and med-tech startups among Indian investors. Yet, the long-term opportunity is substantial, especially for cross-border ventures that leverage Indian talent and developed markets.
Biotechnology spans many sub-domains – from medical and industrial to environmental and agricultural. Given the size and scope of the Indian economy, there is no dearth of entrepreneurial leadership opportunities. Of course, it will require world-class scientific research and technology development. While most Indian life science startups still rely on government funding, I expect angels and professional VCs to rapidly enter the industry. It will take only a few success stories to accelerate this. After all, Indian-origin founders have already demonstrated success in the US biotech industry.
Unlike most software startups, life sciences ventures need more upfront capital, regulatory support, and access to R&D infrastructure. Additionally, the milestone-driven nature of biotech companies requires willing buyers at each stage, even before a commercial product is ready for sale. Clearly, an entire ecosystem has to evolve for biotech entrepreneurship to thrive. Thankfully, there are existing ecosystems in Boston, Cambridge, Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Bay Area that can serve as role models for India.
I put forth the hypothesis that med-tech and digital health would be better starting points for India as compared to drug discovery. The former two require relatively less capital and infrastructure – and are likely to play to India’s strengths such as software. Having said that, we already have emerging success stories (e.g., Curadev Pharma) in drug discovery. This will encourage local innovators and non-resident Indians to explore the creation of new biotech ventures in India. Finally, government support must go beyond PoC funding. Drug and medical device regulators must also demonstrate entrepreneurial leadership by proactively engaging with startups. Public policy must keep pace with technological innovation, as should public servants!