SAN DIEGO, 2008—
I was at a life science investment conference devoted to in-
vestment opportunities in India and China or ga nized by Burrill and Co., one of
the world’s leading life science investment funds. Im portant figures in the In-
dian biotechnology and phar maceutical industries were in attendance. The
focus of the conference concerned innovation in Indian biomedicine: the
need for it, and the lack of it. One speaker was explicit that the biggest chal-
lenge to India becoming “innovative” was that it is a democracy. According
to her, this led to a “demo cratic lag.” The contrast was drawn to China, which
happily could just foist innovation upon its population.
As I listened, I considered the market contradictions that emerged in this
conversation. There was talk about the importance of India making novel
therapeutics rather than focusing on the prevalent model of reverse engi-
neering generic versions of drugs already on the market, but there was no
discussion of how these novelties would be priced to be affordable to the
Indian population. There was talk about building global partnerships with
multinational drug companies to foster innovative capabilities among Indian
companies, but no explanation of the nature of a partnership with power-
ful entities who are your direct competitors, in a global playing field that is
anything but level. And no reflection on how it was pos si ble to talk about
innovation without talking about universities. Pricing strategies, competitive
Value, Politics, and Knowledge in the Pharmocracy
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