Funds Crunch Hits India's Drug Development Project

Joe C. Mathew | Business World | April 5, 2014

Lack of funds is threatening the smooth progress of India’s unique Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) project, a first of its kind attempt to develop drugs for neglected diseases, when it is entering a crucial phase of research. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in February announced that OSDD, the pet project of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), had identified a lead (potential drug candidate) for tuberculosis (TB).  

During the last five years, OSDD had seen the participation of 189 key investigators – chemists, biologists and computer scientists – to work on 238 open projects for the identification of novel drug targets and therapeutics for TB. Five prominent contract research organisations were also part of the exercise, Samir K Brahmachari, former director general of CSIR and chief mentor, OSDD notes.

Despite the promise, the government failed to ensure timely sanctions of funds for the project, an official associated with OSDD complains. According to him, CSIR had proposed a budgetary allocation of Rs 600 crore for OSDD (for five years), in line with the Planning Commission’s recommendations for the 12th Plan Period well before the programme ran out of funds. It was approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) on September 6, 2013. The next administrative requirement was to get the Cabinet sanction for the proposal. Since the Ministry of Science and Technology failed to do that, OSDD may have to wait for the new government to take charge at the Centre for fresh funds...