Incredibly Shallow VC Scene For Pharma R&D In India

India pharma is touted as a big success, but what it does is not much better than Indian IT – low cost work with negligible innovation. There is no simply appetite for pharma R&D in India – not amongst companies, and perhaps as a corollary, not amongst VCs either.

At Wisdomsmith we took on fund raising mandates for 2 R&D firms in the last one year (Wisdomsmith Advisors’ main sector of focus is pharma/healthcare). One was looking for seed funding, and the other for Series A. While we could find and investor for the seed one (strategic), the Series A one has been a struggle. None of the pharma focussed VC funds we talked to, are currently investing in pure play R&D companies.

This despite our firm belief that our client could emerge as the most exciting pharma R&D company in India. This company is doing some globally cutting edge work, has a brilliant business model, and is close to a major breakthrough. It has raised seed funding, has got several government R&D grants, has shown incredible progress from meagre funding, but when it comes to Series A, no takers.

We then talked to several US based biotech funds we know. They said – “great company, but we can’t invest in India. No focus on India”. In other words, if you are a US based biotech VC, India is not on your horizon. And mind you, there are maybe 30 such funds in the US, focussed ONLY on pharma/biotech deals, quite willing to back early stage companies. But not one of them is looking at India.

The purpose of this post is not to rant. I wanted to present some data to show how bad the situation is – the vast chasm in funding ability of a pure play R&D biotech in India (basically zero), versus the US.

Check the chart below. The 10 year data below shows that atleast 60 pharma/biotech startups get Series A funding EVERY YEAR in the US. In India, how many got last year – NONE. Over 700 (747 to be precise) starts-ups got Series A funding in the US over the last 10 years. How many in India? Maybe 10.

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