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Department of Pharmaceuticals report emphasize on need of academia to meet industry's requirement

A study was conducted by the Department of Pharmaceuticals in India to assess the skills required for the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

India's evolution within the pharmaceutical sector must transition from being a global hub for generic pharmaceuticals to becoming a nation driven by innovation in pharmaceutical product development.

The Indian pharmaceutical industry, bolstered by its robust fundamentals, is positioned to embrace new technologies and enhance its infrastructure.

However, academic institutions must promptly meet the industry's escalating expectations and modernize outdated course curricula.

Effective collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and academia has been hampered by multiple challenges, obstructing industry-relevant innovation in academic settings.

Historically, generating innovative outcomes with real-world applications in the pharmaceutical domain has been intricate due to academic career pressures, faculty and institutional milestones, financial constraints, and hesitance to forge industry partnerships.

The India Skills Report of 2021 indicates that employability in India has remained stagnant at 46%, with the pharmaceutical sector even lower at 37%. Although there has been a slight uptick to 44% in the 2022 report, substantial improvement is imperative. Urgent coordination among the Indian pharmaceutical industry, academia, and the government is necessary to elevate the employability prospects of pharmaceutical students.

40% of surveyed companies expressed dissatisfaction with academic institutes not taking proactive measures to engage them for student placements. A majority of these companies preferred recruiting from nearby pharmaceutical institutions.

Of the surveyed companies, 57% did not offer paid internships to students during their coursework. Among the remaining companies that did, 83% tended to rehire students from the same institute when their requirements arose.

Current industry demands in India highlight the need for expertise in Clinical Research, Pharmaceutics, Pharmaceutical Analysis, Medicinal Chemistry, and Pharmacology & Toxicology. Notably, 71% of surveyed companies are open to hiring candidates with life sciences and paramedical degrees for automated processing roles, with 79% recruiting those with non-pharmaceutical experience to save on workforce costs.

Surveyed companies indicated they do not usually hire candidates with a Diploma in Pharmacy due to their perceived under qualification for offering job profiles. Conversely, 66% of companies preferred hiring Master's in Pharmacy graduates as they were considered suitable for their roles.

Approximately 45% of surveyed companies believed students were moderately prepared for campus placement activities.

On a scale of 10, these companies rated students between 5 and 5.7 for skills encompassing Technical Knowledge, Awareness of new technologies, Communication, Aptitude and Creativity, and Teamwork and Collaboration.

Companies recommended that students receive training in emerging areas and technologies such as Personalized Medicine, CRISPR technology, CAR-T/Cell line testing technology, Organoid Spheroid Technology, Medical Intelligence, Medical Devices, Biosimilars, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Biotechnology-based technologies, Software for bridging drug producers and users, Process Automation & Digitalization, Organ-on-a-chip, Invitro organ testing, and Flow Chemistry-based technologies.

Despite these industry demands, only 17% of students, on average, undertook paid industry internships during their coursework. Certain institutes refrained from sending students to industry internships to protect their ongoing research activities.

A substantial 78% of surveyed institutes received grants from government bodies for product-focused research and development, with only 12% of projects being sponsored by industry.

Surveyed institutes reported publishing an average of 274 research papers, filing nine patents, and commercializing one product over the past three years.

In terms of campus placements, surveyed institutes, on average, had a campus placement cell aligned with 15 companies. NIPER Hyderabad boasted the highest placement record with an average annual salary package of INR 8.5 lakh for recent placements.

Only 4% of student projects during their courses were sponsored by the industry. Most (63%) surveyed students had minimal industry interactions, most conducted online. Additionally, 65% of students had yet to undergo training to enhance their market employability.

Of the surveyed students, 71% sought jobs in the industry rather than pursuing higher studies. Among them, 52% aimed for Research and Development roles, while only 1% expressed interest in entrepreneurship. Prominent career paths included Clinical Trials and Pharmaceutical Consulting.

Students generally rated their institute's placement efforts as average to below average. Furthermore, 64% of surveyed students were dissatisfied with the companies participating in placements and expressed preferences for specific companies.

While students scored within the 5-5.7 range for Technical Knowledge, Awareness of new technologies, Communication skills, Aptitude and Creativity, and Teamwork and Collaboration, the average GPA of most graduates from surveyed institutes exceeded 8.

There was an apparent disconnect between the expected salaries of surveyed students and the compensation offered by companies across all degree levels.

A NIPER institution emphasized the urgent need for infrastructure upgrades to meet the standards expected of nationally renowned institutes.

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