Rajinder Suri is the CEO, Biologicals at Panacea Biotec. Having worked with biotechnology giants such as Lupin, Sanofi Pasteur India and Max India in the past, he is the quiet CEO who does his job just too well.
Rajinder is a Master of science in biochemistry. He’s from IIM Bangalore and is a vaccine specialist. He talks to us in detail about vaccines, including the much awaited corona vaccine. We also touch upon his mentors, his passion for his work and the challenges faced to make India disease-free.
On why one-third of India still does not have access to vaccines
India is one of the largest suppliers of vaccines in the world. It supplies almost 60% of the United Nations’ demand for vaccines. However, a large part of the population still remains unvaccinated. Rajinder tells us why –
“One is lack of education, a lack of awareness in the parents’ mind, so they don’t go to the vaccination clinics to get their children vaccinated or protected. And also, there are some myths and beliefs which are very strongly prevailing in some parts of the country. Not only in India, but also world over. And people hesitate to take their children, especially the boys, for vaccination, for fear of several things. So therefore, you know, the vaccination rate comes down. In fact, they hide their children when the vaccinators are going from home to home to deliver even the polio vaccine. Another challenge is also the difficulty to reach certain terrains. And there are in certain parts of the world, hostilities which are going on. So it becomes, again, a challenge for the immunization team to reach there. So these are already being addressed and attended, including by UNICEF and by GAVI and WHO and several organizations.”
On the secret to his success
Rajinder has made quick leaps in his career right from the beginning. Having been chosen by Lupin Laboratories fresh out of college, he went on to become the regional manager for the South within 3 years, and then All India Sales Manager for the newly created division of Lupin Biotech.
We asked him his secret – “I would say there are three points which I personally feel is very important from my perspective for my career. One is the passion. I am very passionate about my job. Then I will say the dedication, I’m totally devoted and this is what I learned from somebody. And the third thing I would say is that I am a strong decision maker.”
On the much awaited Corona vaccine
“It’s a very complicated, very complex way to manufacture vaccines. First of all, you need to identify the disease burden. You need to identify which are the right strains of the organism, which would be effective to deliver and produce. And screening of these strains and then taking them to the vaccine development process, it’s a huge, long process. It can take a minimum of 8-10 years for any vaccine to be developed. If it is an innovative vaccine, it can even go upto 20 years, like, for example, malaria or HIV.”
How then is the corona vaccine expected to be rolled out so soon?
“This will be on an expedited development. It will not be fully tested for safety and efficacy, which is a long drawn process. So it would be probably taking a few months to introduce a vaccine just to protect people who are going to be impacted. But then the safety aspect of it remains unknown.”
His advice for the youth
“Three things I would like to say that first give hundred percent of what you do, not half hearted approaches. Second, because today you have to develop analytical skills, you have to develop what you call I.T. skills, because today you’re moving to the digital world. So I.T. skills are very, very important. And third is the communication skills. I think these are three things which the youngsters have to definitely adopt and learn because they have to become industry ready. And there is a tremendous difference between academia, what they are teaching you and what the industry requirements are. So to fulfill that and to become a successful professional, I’m sure these things would help them.”