Interview with Mr Varun Mali, Deputy Head of Mission & Head of Trade & Investment (AP & TS), British Deputy High Commission Hyderabad. Mr Varun Mali is a Pharmaceutical Scientist & a registered Pharmacist. He completed his graduation in Pharmacy from Pune University & hold a Masters in Drug Delivery from University College London School of Pharmacy, UK, in addition to a degree in management. He has worked in the life sciences & pharma sector in both UK & India for companies like Piramal & Novartis & is currently in a Diplomatic role, working for the UK Government, as the Dy Head of Mission & Head of Trade & Investment at the British Deputy High Commission in Hyderabad. Varun holds a strong experience in R&D, Project Management, Business Consultancy, International Business Development, Advisory, Policy & Government Affairs, Corporate Strategy & Communications. His current role includes supporting Indian companies from AP & Telangana to strategically expand to the UK, leading to UK FDI & also supports in Business Development for British Companies in India. His priority & focus sectors include – Life Sciences, Pharmaceuticals, Bio Tech, Med Tech, Digital health, AI & Technology and sustainable / clean growth companies. He has hand-held a lot of pharma & healthcare companies from Hyderabad to set their footprint in the UK, and has a very strong network with various life sciences companies, VC’s, investors, incubators, universities etc. working in the UK-India corridor.
Is the economy of UK stabilized now after Brexit & in upwards trajectory of growth ?
Varun Mali: Yes, the UK reached an historic agreement with our EU partners last year. This agreement marks the start of a new relationship following our departure from the EU. The UK has embarked on an ambitious programme of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations to become a truly Global Britain. So far, we have agreed trade deals with 67 countries plus the EU, that account for £891bn of UK bilateral trade in 2019.
In March, the UK Government announced an ambitious Budget for 2021, unveiling plans to ‘build back better’ following the impact of the pandemic. The UK central bank, the Bank of England, has predicted strong economic growth of 7.25% for 2021. This positive outlook sits alongside the UK’s position as the top destination in Europe for attracting foreign direct investment. Results published by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), show that by the end of 2019, the UK’s inward FDI stock levels reached $2.1 trillion.
Our consistent success in attracting investment from global partners, including from world-class businesses in India, is due to our many strengths that attract investors: an open, liberal economy, world-class talent and business-friendly environment.
UK & India just announced 1 billion pound trade deal. How do you see trade deal impacting life science sector in UK & India ?
Varun Mali: India is an important partner for the UK and strengthening UK-India trade ties is a priority for the UK Government. The strength of the UK-India strategic economic partnership is already considerable. Total trade between the UK and India was £18.3bn in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2020. [Source: ONS UK Economic Accounts (seasonally adjusted series) Q4 2020]
During a virtual meeting on 4th May Prime Minister Johnson and Prime Minister Modi agreed a ‘2030 Roadmap’ which will provide a framework for UK-India relations across health, climate, trade, education, science and technology, and defence. This Roadmap includes a commitment to deepen the economic relationship between the UK and India through the launch of the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) and confirms our intent to negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA) with a view to doubling UK-India trade over the next decade.
The Prime Ministers also announced £1 billion in new UK-India trade and investment.
India is known as the pharmacy of the world. It is the largest producer of generic medicines globally. It meets 62 percent of the global demand for vaccines, 40% of generic demand in the US and 25% of all medicine in the UK. The industry has been growing at 13 to 14 per cent over the last 5 years. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, India has been supplying medicines and generic drugs like hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to more than 100 countries. The country is also been the largest exporter of COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world. But currently India is prioritizing on domestic supply over exports. The latest trends in Indian investment in the UK is 27% of Indian investment into the UK is in the Pharmaceuticals and chemicals sector. Life science companies continue to grow in the UK, a recent published report by Grant Thornton & CII called ‘India meets Britain Tracker 2021’ gives us details on the growth of these Indian Life Science companies in the UK:
The number of pharmaceuticals and chemicals companies in this Tracker almost doubled this year, 27% of Indian investment into the UK is in the Pharmaceuticals and chemicals sector, for example:
Piramal Enterprises Ltd ( Life Molecular Imaging Ltd )
|Growth rate as per report:|
|2||Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd||113%|
|5||Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Europe Ltd||29%|
|6||Torrent Pharma (UK) Ltd||27%|
|7||Marksans Pharma Ltd||23%|
|8||Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd||13%|
UK is one of the biggest manufacturer of pharmaceutical products in world still UK is inviting companies to invest. Are there still opportunities to investment in the pharmaceutical sector?
Varun Mali: Yes absolutely, there are great opportunities for additional pharma investment from India into the UK and we very much welcome such investment. To date, the traditional India investor in the UK would be mainly working in the small generic molecule space, but increasingly we’re seeing companies looking at bio similars as well as innovative new products.
We believe that in the future we will also see Indian companies looking to the UK for both the development, as well as the manufacture of advanced therapeutic products. In order to attract pharma companies to the UK, we have a strong infrastructure in place that’s available to both UK and incoming Indian companies, for them to work collaboratively with our centres of excellence.
To give an example of these centres, we have in place facilities such as the National Biologicals Manufacturing Centre, the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and the Medicines Discovery Catapult (including Precision Medicine), all of which are up and running. In addition, currently under construction are the Vaccines Innovation Manufacturing Centre, due for completion end 2021 and the Medicines Innovation Manufacturing Centre, due for completion beginning 2022.
You can also look for additional details on our website:
A straight forward question. Why UK should be seen as global hub for life sciences sector ?
Varun Mali: There are a variety of reasons why the UK should be considered as such, they include:
- In Cambridge, the UK has the largest single biocluster in Europe and nationwide we have the biggest life sciences cluster with a total turnover at £80.7bn, over 250,000 employees and 6,300 businesses.
- In Europe, the UK has the highest number of pharma and biotech companies in the leading 1000 companies, more than double its biggest competitor – France.
- Ranked #1 for the number of life sciences FDI projects among European comparator projects and 2nd globally, behind the US. The value of the overall inward FDI reached £1.1 billion in capital expenditure that year – a 37% increase from 2017 levels and the highest in the previous 8 years.
- in 2019, the UK ranked 1st for the number of life sciences FDI projects (72 projects) among European comparator projects and 2nd globally, behind the USA
- We have 4 of the top 10 life sciences universities in the world viz Cambridge, Oxford, University College, London and Imperial College, London
- The UK has a renowned heritage of world-class talent and institutions. With our strong foundations and 900+ year track record of scientific excellence, we continue to evolve, pushing the boundaries of discovery and paving the way for the future of life science innovation
The UK nurtures some of the most talented people, from exceptional physicians, Nobel prize winning and next generation scientists. Work with talent we grow and develop, and brilliant minds which we attract to our institutions and industry. We are home to some of the world’s most prestigious and productive institutions, from our NHS, to our top-tier universities, leading research councils, pharmaceutical companies and policy and regulatory bodies. We have the strong foundations and history of excellence to be the partner of choice for the future of life sciences
One of the challenges for small & medium pharmaceutical manufacturing company is regulatory environment. How is Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) engaging with small & medium enterprises ?
Varun Mali: MHRA makes no distinction between large and SME companies. In fact, many companies approaching MHRA are of SME size, especially those that have innovative new products. A company of any size that has an innovative product in development, may utilise the services of the Innovation Office, a unique offer from MHRA, where they can discuss the route through the regulatory pathway with MHRA’s experts at no cost.
One of the important requirement of any industry to grow is to have right talent pool. Can you elaborate more on UK’s diverse pool of talent ?
Varun Mali: The UK is a global hub for international talent, ranked fifth in the world for our ability to grow talent. [Source: 2020 Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI)]
The UK’s leading science base includes Nobel Prize winning research and world-renowned institutions, which continue to seed a strong pipeline of talent and enable the creation of spinouts and startup businesses. There are over 250,000 people working in the life sciences industry, supported by access to our world class universities.
Significant public sector and research charity commitments have supported bold, high-risk science, through sustained investment into enabling skills as well as physical and digital infrastructure.
These key ingredients for scientific success are matched with financial and regulatory enablers to keep the UK at the forefront of global scientific exploration, invention and innovation. The future of the already highly productive science base has been secured by a commitment to increase R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and 3% in the long term.
How is clinical research and clinical trials ecosystem helping clinical research industry in the UK ?
Varun Mali: The UK is a prime destination for clinical research, supporting companies from early concept through to market. The UK’s expert investigators and research infrastructure can support companies at any stage of their development pipeline to bring new treatments to patients faster. The UK Government invests over £175 million each year in research centres and facilities in leading universities and hospitals, focused on translational research and delivery of early-phase studies. Over 1000 early phase industry contract and collaborative studies are delivered annually in the UK’s translational research infrastructure. The UK is the first nation in the world to apply whole genome sequencing at scale at the interface between cutting-edge research and clinical care, building on successful delivery of the 100,000 Genomes Project. The UK ranks first in Europe for the number early clinical trials, with 400 Phase I & II trials started in 2017
Over 1300 open and recruiting commercial contract trials were supported by our research delivery system last year, supporting the recruitment of over 50,000 patients into commercial contract trials. Over 1 million patients have been recruited into Primary Care studies to date, Cancer research is embedded in the patient care pathway in the UK with 20% of cancer patients taking part in clinical trials, compared with 5% in the USA. The UK is expanding capacity by establishing 5 Patient Recruitment Centres to provide dedicated facilities and staff to deliver commercial late phase research
The MHRA received 955 requests for clinical trial authorisations (CTA) in 2018, with an average of 977 CTA applications per year since 2016, Over the last decade an average of 28% of EU clinical trial applications have come from the UK. MHRA is working closely with the Health Research Authority and Devolved Administrations on a Combined Ways of Working Pilot to provide a single application route and coordinated ethics and regulatory review -leading to a single UK clinical trial decision. 100 applications have already gone through the Pilot and with this completely new way of working sponsors can expect a single UK decision in an average of 54 days, with even faster decisions for Phase I studies
Digital Innovation Hub programme launched, bringing together NHS data with other wider datasets, such as genomics and disease specific research cohorts, to provide rich research-ready datasets. NHS Digital already provides a central access service which enables secure legal and transparent access to, and linkage with, over 16 different national datasets across England. The Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) offers research services to support innovative electronic health record (EHR) enabled real-world studies, to improve the efficiency of clinical research. This is based on a recruitment pool of13million patients registered at a network of GP practices across the UK
UK is focusing on dedicated infrastructure for MedTech research which includes industries like Device, Diagnostics and Digital Healthcare. Can you elaborate more on this?
A growing industry in a data rich environment: The UK Medical Technology sector is growing fast, with 4,100 jobs added over the last year to a workforce of more than 120,000 people. The UK is home to more than 3,500 medical technology businesses, generating over £22.2bn in turnover, including product developers and supply chain companies. The sector can develop and launch products in the uniquely rich data environment of the world’s largest integrated health system, the National Health Service, with longitudinal health data for 65 million patients.
Significant government investment: The NHS, with its £125bn annual budget, is a major market for medical technologies, and a collaborator on R &D and improving patient outcomes. The industry is also supported by significant government funding to accelerate medical innovation, and businesses engaged in R&D in the UK can enjoy 33% cash back on R&D spend, with a 44% tax credit for small companies.
Top talent based across the UK: Medical Technology R & D and manufacturing is well-distributed across the UK, with a strong supply chain and a thriving ecosystem of skilled designers, engineers, researchers, scientists, regulators, evaluators and marketers. Grow your business by tapping into a national medical technology workforce or hire the next generation of talent from our excellent universities, technical colleges, apprenticeship schemes, and clinical institutions. The UK is home to three of the top five universities in the world for preclinical, clinical and health sciences.
A fast-growing digital health and data-driven industry -The digital health and artificial intelligence (AI) industry in the UK is growing fast, and the world is paying attention to new and maturing businesses. There are already more than 10,000 people employed in digital health, and the UK is leading the way in embracindisruptive technologies and addressing challenges such as healthier ageing, announcing more than £300 million in funding for AI and an Ageing Society Grand Challenge.
How can Department for International Trade help Indian life science companies:
Varun Mali: On your investment journey will we connect you into a community of support. The UK Government is committed to helping you make the most of the opportunities to use the UK as your gateway to the world. We can:
- Help you benchmark the UK against other international locations
- Help you choose the right UK location for your business, coordinate your UK site search, and arrange and host visits to the UK to meet potential partners or see locations
- Provide access to subject matter experts in areas such as access to finance, tax, talent, and immigration to explore your top issues
- Connect your business with the UK’s innovation capability and networks matching your interests
- Explore the opportunities for your technology, product or service in the NHS
- Connect you to expert UK trade associations and member organisations
- Offer aftercare to new inward investors and offer ongoing support and relationship management for established inward investors
- Explore the potential to export from the UK
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further queries to investing in the UK