Saturday, 13 June 2015

Big pharma industries gobble up NIPER patents

Manjeet Sehgal   |   Mail Today  |   Chandigarh, June 13, 2015 | UPDATED 05:09 IST
Patents and research findings that could have been utilised to boost the small-scale pharmaceutical companies are lying in the cold shelves of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) for decades. And a section of institute's top brass is allegedly busy sharing the information on patents and intellectual property rights with the big players in the industry, thereby negating the mandate for which NIPER was set up.
This stark reality has come to light after a senior scientist, who worked with the institute, levelled damning allegations against the NIPER authorities. According to Dr Parikshit Bansal, the institute has the mandate to share such information with smaller companies in the industry so that affordable medicines are manufactured and made available to the people. However, he alleged that the institute has been sharing the information with big companies, who in turn, are making money by manufacturing pricey medicines.
Located in Mohali, NIPER was declared as an institution of national importance in 1998 by an Act of Parliament. However, over the past two decades, the institute has been in the news for wrong reasons, especially for not fulfilling its mandate. Moreover, there have been allegations of diversion and misuse of funds; the institute is currently facing 34 different court cases besides a CBI probe.
Bansal told Mail Today that rather than getting the research findings patented in the institute's name, NIPER authorities have been unofficially sharing it with the private companies, thus causing a huge loss to the government.
"It is an open secret that some senior faculty members in connivance with directors have been obliging select section of the pharmaceutical industry by illegally sharing the technologies and research generated at tax payers' expense," Bansal told Mail Today.
Mail Today investigation confirmed that rather than providing cheaper pharma technology to the small-scale pharmaceutical entrepreneurs, NIPER authorities helped a few pharmaceutical major by charging hefty consultation fees, a part of which was also paid to the scientists and consultants.
Corroborating Bansal's allegation, another former NIPER scientist, Dr Ashwani Vig, told Mail Today: "Cadila had asked me to establish an impurity. I helped the company by establishing the same as a consultant. The inputs provided by me should have been patented by NIPER. But it was done by Cadila. While the institute earned a few lakh rupees and lost the royalty, Cadila may have earned several crores of rupees by commercialising the medicine. We cannot say that NIPER's research was poor but the director lacked the business sense."
On NIPER website, which has not been updated after July 2014, a list shows 20 patents which have already been granted besides 91 patents which have been filed. Bansal had also raised the issue of the diversion and misuse of funds meant for setting up the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) department at NIPER with the President of India and Central Vigilance Commissioner in December 2009.
"Former director P Rama Rao (now Dean of Central University in Bathinda) and the current officiating director KK Bhutani did not allow setting up of the IPR department," Bansal alleged.
Bansal said Rs. 22 lakh was released for buying computers for the IPR laboratory; 10 people were to be hired as faculty and technician. But not a single person was hired over the years.
Despite Bansal's complaint to Arun Jha, the then joint secretary in the department of pharmaceuticals in the Central government, no action was taken.
According to Bansal, a third party review committee was set up by KK Bhutani. But the committee gave a clean chit to NIPER director and others.
When MAIL TODAY contacted NIPER authorities, they refused to comment. "I am unaware of the issues as I have joined a month back. I cannot comment on diversion of funds. I am not authorised to speak," said Susheel Kumar Singh, NIPER deputy registrar (administration and purchases).

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