Prof Pankaj Chan­dra, Vice-Chan­cel­lor, Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity

BioSpectrum (India) - - BIO CONTENT - Prof Pankaj Chan­dra, Vice-Chan­cel­lor, Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity

“To­day, most lo­cal prob­lems have global so­lu­tions and vice-versa”

Re­cently, Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity in part­ner­ship with Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Diego launched Global Ex­ec­u­tive MBA pro­gram for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als. With this re­gards, BioSpec­trum talks to Prof. Pankaj Chan­dra, Vice Chan­cel­lor, Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity. He was a mem­ber of two Steer­ing Com­mit­tees con­sti­tuted by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion of In­dia for 12th Plan De­vel­op­ment, one on higher and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion and the other on in­dus­try. He has been in­volved in sev­eral star­tups and has also been a con­sul­tant to large In­dian and multi-na­tional firms. He also serves on the Boards of sev­eral firms and in­sti­tu­tions. Edited ex­perts;

Can you please throw some light on the strate­gic col­lab­o­ra­tion?

Ahmed­abad and San Diego are both very strong cen­ters of life sciences and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­no­va­tion and pro­duc­tion. Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity is build­ing strong re­search and teach­ing pro­grammes around the sec­tor that al­lows in­ter­dis­ci­plinary en­quiry – one that can hap­pen only at a multi-dis­ci­plinary uni­ver­sity. The Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Diego is one of the prom­i­nent cen­tres of re­search and de­vel­op­ment in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try. The Rady School of Man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Diego has ex­cep­tional ex­am­ples of de­vel­op­ing eth­i­cal and en­trepreneurial lead­ers and en­hanc­ing qual­i­ties that demon­strate in­spi­ra­tional lead­er­ship. More­over, there is a need in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try to skill em­ploy­ees to be­come in­no­va­tive lead­ers in this very rapidly chang­ing in­dus­try. At Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity, we are fo­cused on in­te­grated prob­lem solv­ing and in­no­va­tive lead­er­ship by strate­gi­cally bring­ing to­gether dis­ci­plines of man­age­ment, en­gi­neer­ing, phar­ma­ceu­tics, and arts & sciences on to a sin­gu­lar learn­ing plat­form. On the other hand, UC San Diego brings in in­tel­lec­tual depth by har­ness­ing high qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and in­ter­dis­ci­plinary re­search. The part­ner­ship be­tween Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity and Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Diego is a nat­u­ral col­lab­o­ra­tion of ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ex­per­tise that com­ple­ment each other to cater to the needs of the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try, not just in In­dia, but across the globe.

What are the fees of this pro­gram and how will this course help work­ing pro­fes­sion­als?

The pro­gramme will en­hance the lead­er­ship skills of the work­ing pro­fes­sion­als, against the back­drop of chang­ing reg­u­la­tory land­scape and emerg­ing global trends in in­no­va­tion and drug de­liv­ery. The pro­gramme will be led by dis­tin­guished fac­ulty from In­dia and abroad, who have deep un­der­stand­ing and ex­per­tise in lead­er­ship and man­age­ment, dig­i­tal and med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy, bi­o­log­i­cal and life sciences, and the pharma qual­ity and au­dit sys­tems. The pro­gramme will also help stu­dents de­velop ex­cel­lence in strat­egy and lead­er­ship; align R&D and tech­nol­ogy with com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions; build or­ga­ni­za­tional agility; and achieve com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage through sus­tain­able growth. Most im­por­tant, the pro­gramme is mod­u­lar in de­sign and pro­fes­sion­als can con­tinue to work and still com­plete the de­gree.

The fees for the pro­gramme is Rs 4.5 lakhs per year, in­clu­sive of ho­tel stay dur­ing the res­i­dency pe­riod but ex­clu­sive of cost to travel to Ahmed­abad for var­i­ous res­i­den­cies of the pro­gramme. To en­cour­age more women to en­hance their lead­er­ship ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the sec­tor, we pro­vide a dis­count of 10% on the to­tal fees.

What is your opin­ion on the in­dus­try-academia gap in the life sciences sec­tor and what should be done to re­duce it?

There are two things to be kept in mind. One, de­gree pro­grammes must build on new the­ory while teach­ing how to ap­ply. And in­dus­try must take ad­van­tage of this crit­i­cal think­ing ap­proach that uni­ver­si­ties build. The prob­lem is that there are too many poor aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions that do not do their teach­ing-learn­ing

well and too many com­pa­nies that do not use the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of their aca­dem­i­cally bet­ter trained em­ploy­ees. And sec­ond, prob­lems in in­dus­try or so­ci­ety do not of­ten come de­fined as dis­ci­plinary prob­lems – solv­ing prob­lems re­quires mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plinary skills and mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives as well as ex­pe­ri­ences. Un­for­tu­nately, academia is built around si­los which does not help. Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity, for in­stance, has built re­la­tion­ships with a few se­lect firms in the sec­tor to en­gage with them when think­ing about cur­ricu­lum and its re­view, to de­velop pro­grammes for work­ing pro­fes­sion­als, to get stu­dents to do small projects, for in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als to un­der­take masters and doc­toral de­grees while they are work­ing, con­duct joint re­search projects etc. These help academia to un­der­stand in­dus­try is­sues and prob­lems more deeply and for in­dus­try to up­grade the ca­pa­bil­i­ties and re­tain their tal­ent. This could be a good model. One must re­mem­ber that re­la­tion­ships are built over time by tak­ing many small steps.

In your opin­ion do cor­po­rate sup­port­ing aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions help in stu­dents’ skill de­vel­op­ment?

Def­i­nitely. As I men­tioned, en­gag­ing with cor­po­rates at the stage of cur­ricu­lum de­sign, bring­ing them to class, get­ting stu­dents to do projects, in­tern­ships etc., all make stu­dents aware of the real is­sues, un­der­stand the pro­cesses and tools & tech­niques used – all of which en­hances ca­pa­bil­i­ties and hence em­ploy­a­bil­ity. In­tern­ships that al­low stu­dents to use state-of-art equip­ment also help build en­dur­ing skills.

How col­lab­o­rat­ing with a for­eign uni­ver­sity is ad­van­ta­geous?

To­day, most lo­cal prob­lems have global so­lu­tions and vice-versa. More­over, as In­dia be­comes a stronger part­ner in global sup­ply chains, both global com­pa­nies as well as lo­cal com­pa­nies will seek skills and per­spec­tives that help them nav­i­gate the re­quire­ments of the world. This re­quires cre­at­ing a mind­set amongst stu­dents, fac­ulty, and ad­min­is­tra­tors which says that my lo­cal so­lu­tions can have global im­pact and that there are global best prac­tices that can help me do things bet­ter and more

ef­fec­tively or sim­ply al­low me to do more. For ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, col­lab­o­ra­tions with uni­ver­si­ties abroad al­low build­ing of such mind­sets. It cre­ates di­ver­sity amongst stu­dent pop­u­la­tion which has tremen­dous ben­e­fits. It leads to shar­ing of knowl­edge and do­ing things that each in­di­vid­ual in­sti­tu­tion would find dif­fi­cult to do. It teaches new things and builds new per­spec­tives that will help stu­dents nav­i­gate their ca­reers bet­ter. It also al­lows in­sti­tu­tions to ex­plore, jointly, fron­tiers of re­search and solve knotty prob­lems pool­ing of in­tel­lec­tual re­sources.

Many stu­dents are mov­ing to man­age­ment after study­ing phar­macy. In your opin­ion, are man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als re­quired more com­pared to tech­ni­cally sound peo­ple?

The In­dian phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try is very vi­brant but is also fac­ing strong head­winds from reg­u­la­tory and in­sur­ance in­dus­try glob­ally. More­over, the pool of drugs com­ing out of patent is slowly de­clin­ing in the medium term. At the same time, new tech­nolo­gies are start­ing to ad­dress ar­eas that were in­tractable and through dif­fer­ent mech­a­nisms. This calls for a dif­fer­ent kind of strat­egy at the or­gan­i­sa­tional level. Firms in In­dia will have to in­vest more in R&D, part­ner more with aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions for early stage re­search and star­tups for quick trans­la­tion while manag­ing risks and mar­kets glob­ally. This re­quires a very dif­fer­ent set of com­pe­ten­cies. Do­main knowl­edge in life sciences in­clud­ing math­e­mat­ics & phar­ma­ceu­tics when com­bined with man­age­rial skills form a po­tent mix of abil­i­ties that will help a young man­ager con­trib­ute to the in­dus­try. Hav­ing said that, in a knowl­edge in­dus­try like pharma, highly skilled tech­ni­cal ex­perts who are MD or PhD or both will be most val­ued as they can pick up man­age­rial skills on the job and through var­i­ous ex­ec­u­tive pro­grammes and lead the in­dus­try.

Is Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity in plans with col­lab­o­ra­tions with other firms or in­sti­tu­tions apart from this?

Ahmed­abad Uni­ver­sity has de­vel­oped a part­ner­ship with some of the finest phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms in In­dia for ad­vanc­ing knowl­edge creation es­pe­cially in STEM. The Ex­ec­u­tive Global MBA in Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Man­age­ment, is guided by an Ad­vi­sory Board that com­prises se­nior lead­ers from in­dus­try and academia. The ini­tial in­dus­try mem­bers of the Board are from Tor­rent, Bio­con, Zy­dus, DRL, Sanofi, Lupin, and SciVista IP. We have also de­vel­oped a Pharma Col­lab­o­ra­tory that will drive our re­search agenda, our pro­grammes, and our en­gage­ment in the sec­tor for the ben­e­fit of all firms in the in­dus­try.

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