Clinical research: Growing opportunities, dwindling manpower

Written by Alok Sharma | New Delhi, Jul 30 | Updated: Jul 31 2007, 04:34am hrs
Even as the $200-million market for clinical research in India is flooded with projects from developed nations, clinical research organisations (CROs) here are facing a huge shortage of qualified manpower.

To make matters worse, attrition rates in these organisations are as high as 50%.

The industry, which has only about 2,000 qualified personnel working on various projects, is already short of about 10,000 people. In order to fill the gap, companies hire fresh graduates and train them on the job, president ClinInvent Research Ltd Arun Bhatt told FE.

The country would need around 30,000 people in the industry by 2010, he said, adding the sector needed some stability and trained personnel before more opportunities were to be created.

India attracts several pharma and biotech companies to conduct clinical trials due to the high number of patients with problems such as cardiac, diabetes, hypertension and nerve disorders. It is also economical as the cost of clinical trial here is reduced by over 40%.

Western countries do not have adequate number of patients to complete the trials in time which means a lot of savings in drug development costs, Bhatt said.

There is growing demand for skilled people but traditional labour markets are providing fewer new people with the right qualifications and experience, industry leader (health sciences) with Ernst and Young Pvt Ltd Utkarsh Palnitkar said.

The gap in trained people and required manpower not only poses a challenge for the sectors growth but could also result in non-reliable results, said an industry expert.

Very few institutes offer specific courses required for the job, though there are courses that touch upon the kind of expertise needed for the industry, chief operating officer at Gurgaon-based contract research firm Premas Biotech Rajeev Soni said.

Soni, however, said due to the growth in the sector, trained people who had left the country for better prospects are now coming back to get involved in trials being conducted within the country. But then, the number is too low.