Founder and CEO, Polyclone Bioservices
The author did his masters from Queensland University of Technology,
Brisbane, Australia. He founded Polyclone Bioservices and led the
company to successfully forge drug discovery alliances. He served as
the director of business development at Philips Research, where he was
associated with a portfolio of opportunities for new business creation
in healthcare and energy.
Traditionally, from a marketing standpoint, there are only two types of
companies. Product-based companies and services-based companies. The
typical perception of a biotechnology company is that it is a
technology company. The question is how that technology is packaged? If
it is packaged as a product, then does it have enough target market
numbers to generate a sustainable business opportunity?
Alternatively, if that technology is a service, then it almost
inadvertently falls into the realm of knowledge-based services creating
a niche domain, but with a limited market size.
With both the above scenarios, a biotech company is typically faced
with the same challenge of market creation. A large company works on
systematically building an ecosystem by supplementing with research
publications, clinical data and endorsements from key opinion leaders.
A small company does not have all the resources to accelerate and
influence the adoption rate and has to intelligently balance its
financial and manpower resources to achieve an optimum success rate to
keep the business afloat. More often than not, the success depends on
the company’s ability to raise finance to maintain sustained marketing
activity. Eventually, the value capture happens when a larger company
decides to ‘spin-in’ this technology or product, if they see a
strategic fit in their portfolio. In most cases, it results in complete
acquisition, since investors see it as a faster route to return
The on-ground challenges before the biotechnology industry as a whole,
varies widely from company to company, depending on what vertical it
At Polyclone, we started as a services company and, predominantly,
focused on solving critical problems of genomics platform companies,
mainly by applying bioinformatics algorithms. Today, we are proud to
see that some of our customers’ products are available in the market
and well-accepted by world-class scientific teams. Eventually, we
started our first lab-based genomics services and the value addition
was that we could offer end-to-end solutions. As a services company,
and a small one at that, we had to scale up our offerings in an
incremental manner with each customer project giving us scientific
validation and financial muscle to add the next part of our solution.
Although this wasn’t the ideal situation, it helped us come up with
creative solutions for solving capital requirements and marketing
One of the challenges we faced during our early days was convincing
customers based only on a set of capabilities without the right
infrastructure or success stories? Here, we were well-supported by
academic groups at IISc and, eventually, we set up our first molecular
biology lab at UAS Dharwad.
Although we started mostly with service projects funded by customers,
we had the ambition to pool our knowledge gained over the years into a
product that met the needs of the customers. We decided to build
products that create value to research and enable accelerated
discovery. Our initial customers, mostly from the US and Europe,
trusted us even though we did not have a fully working prototype and
supported us in validating the product.
We released our first product, eprime, together with Eppendorf India
and are currently set to launch an enzyme engineering framework that
addresses the critical need for optimizing a protein to meet the
requirements of industrial processes to function in non-physiological
conditions and on non-natural substrates without losing their activity
or stability. Similarly, we developed a range of solutions for peptide
sequence analysis and validated it with the help of our customers and,
soon, we envision having a suite of never-before products to support
and accelerate research in proteomics.
In molecular biology, we helped design and validate novel diagnostic
assays for infectious diseases that are prevalent in India. Not
stopping at the molecular level, we added cell biology capabilities. We
set up a stem cell biology facility with a partner and are focused on
innovations to accelerate stem cell therapy in several areas of medical
science. While majority of the companies are focused on mainstream
therapy opportunities, our strategy is to develop peripheral
technologies that enable faster and more efficient access to such
therapies across many disease areas.
Over the last five years, we have grown from a small computational
biology outfit to an integrated biology research services provider with
products, frameworks and services in computational, molecular and cell
biology. This is a natural culmination of scientific and business
success we have had over the years and fits in perfectly with how our
customers and their requirements have evolved.