• 8 February 2007
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Avesthagen IP model achieves global benchmark valuation of

Avesthagen IP model achieves global benchmark valuation of €115 m

Avestha Gengraine Technologies has announced the successful closure of its Series 'C' fundraise totaling € 25m in equity investments, valuing the company at € 115 m (approx. Rs 667 crore).

The funds will be used for Avesthagen's infrastructure expansion plans, including setting up state-of-the-art manufacturing units, R&D laboratories, acquisition of technology companies in the domestic and overseas markets and furthering its international presence.

The investors in the series C round include Fidelity International, Limagrain group (France); Daninvest of Danone group (France) and Bennett Coleman (India). With this, the total foreign investment in Avesthagen is now over 31 percent. The new investors further strengthen the already robust existing investor base that includes ICICI Venture, Cipla, Godrej Industries, Tata Industries and bioMérieux.

The year 2006 was of special significance to Avesthagen as two leading global companies made strategic investments in R&D collaborations with two business units of Avesthagen. These are Groupe Limagrain, a French global seed major, for R&D and product development in agri-biotechnology and the European food major Groupe Danone for R&D and product development in bio-nutritionals.

Revenues have increased by more than 60 percent in 2006 and all product pipelines are on target. The company expects to be profitable for the third consecutive year and is witnessing fast growth compared to the usual gestation period in the biotechnology industry.

According to Dr Villoo Morawala Patell, vice-chairperson and managing director, Avestha Gengraine Technologies, "The markets addressed by Avesthagen are all global in their nature and alliances in R&D and marketing will continue to be an essential part of its strategy. With long-term commitment towards its clients and strategic investors combined with a unique business model, Avesthagen expects solid growth in the coming years."

Going forward, Avesthagen' activities are being re-organized into four strategic business units including bio-pharmaceuticals, bio-nutritionals agri-biotech, science and innovation. Each of these units will be run as independent profit centers with dedicated management teams. Avesthagen's immediate focus will be intensifying its IP through product commercialization.

Avesthagen has started preparations for its IPO, which is scheduled to take place by mid 2008, around which time the commercial launch of the first products is expected for the bio-nutritional and bio-pharmaceutical product pipelines. The headcount of the company is anticipated to increase to over 600 within the next 18 months.

Avesthagen has also unveiled its new corporate identity and logo. According to Dr Villoo, "The new identity for the Avesthagen group embodies the organization's commitment to evolve new solutions and creative ideas."


India becomes the fifth largest biotech crop producer globally: ISAAA

India is emerging as a key leader in bioagriculture in Asia. The country has tallied an impressive 192 percentage increase or 2.5 million hectare to a total of 3.8 million hectares, jumping two spots in the world ranking to become the fifth largest producer of biotech crops in the world, surpassing China for the first time, according to the annual report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

Globally, the biotech area under cultivation has surged past 100 million hectares recording 13 percent growth. Farmers have continued rapid adoption of biotech crops around the globe in 2006 driving multiple adoption milestones for the technology-enhanced crops that produce greater yield of food, feed, fiber and fuel, the report said.

At the beginning of the second decade of biotech crop adoption, biotech crop area has jumped 12 million hectares or 13 percent to reach 102 million hectares, breaking the 100 million hectare for the first time and achieving the second highest growth in the past five years. Growth for the period 1996 to 2006 has been equivalent to an unprecedented 60-fold increase, the highest adoption rate of any crop technology. Additionally, the number of farmers planting biotech crops surged past 10 million for the first time, to 10.3 million, from 8.5 million farmers in 2005.

Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA and author of the report, expects these adoption levels to continue accelerating throughout the second decade of commercialization. By 2015, ISAAA predicts more than 20 million farmers will plant 200 million hectares of biotech crops in about 40 countries. More than 90 percent or 9.3 million farmers growing biotech crops last year were small, resource-poor farmers from the developing world, allowing biotechnology to make a modest contribution to the alleviation of their poverty," James said.

Elaborating on the Indian scenario, Dr CD Mayee, ISAAA trustee and chairman of the Indian Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board, said, "Bt cotton has contributed significantly to the yield increase in cotton in India from 308 kg lint per hectare in 2005-2006." In turn the increase in yield from Bt cotton has been a major contributor to increased cotton exports from India, which soared from 0.9 million bales in 2005 to 4.7 million bales in 2006, the highest ever recorded for India."

These benefits are driving widespread growth of biotech crops globally. In 2006, there were key growth centers on each of the major continents providing a broad and stable foundation for biotech crops in the second decade. Furthermore, while 22 countries planted biotech crops last year, the report indicated an additional 29 countries have approved biotech crops for import for food/feed use and release into the environment.

"More than half of the global population of 6.5 billion people now live in countries where biotech crops are grown, allowing 3.6 billion people to benefit from the economic, societal and environmental advantages generated through biotech crops," James said. "With 51 countries in total gaining experience with biotech crops, acceptance will continue to grow."


Nandan Biomatrix launches scientifically validated medicinal plant extracts

Hyderabad-based Nandan Biomatrix, an integrated nutraceuticals company dedicated to the discovery, development and commercialization of extracts and APIs, has launched its standardized medicinal plant extracts to cater to the national and global pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and the food and healthcare industries.

V Bhaskar Rao, managing director, Nandan Biomatrix, said, "We develop and commercialize proprietary compounds from medicinal plants to address the unmet needs of people in the aphrodisiac, cosmetic, nutritional supplements and general health products markets within the country and globally. Our integrated business strategy encompasses cultivation, R&D, processing and marketing." We have more than 40,000 acres of land under contract farming and are the first company to get into crop insurance for medicinal plants."

B Jaya Kumar, director, technical and R&D, Nandan Biomatrix, said, "Our main focus is on Safed Musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum), Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis Miller) and Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana). Extensive research on the herb and the recent scientific validation (phytochemical study, toxicity study, efficacy study and clinical trials) conducted at ICT, Hyderabad prove Safed Musli to be a natural and safe aphrodisiac, health vitalizer and immunity promoter with positive results. The distinctive hallmark of Nandan is its commitment to research and development and standardized processing for superior quality products."

Bhaskar Rao added, "There is a global shift towards natural products and also demand for preventive and promotive products. Considering this shift we will be expanding our capacity from 8 tons/hour to 25 tons/hour. We are targeting to cross Rs100-crore mark by next March 2007 from Rs 45 crore achieved for 2005-06."


Knowledge City to come up at Mohali

As a part of fulfilling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's promise to Punjab, a 'Knowledge City' is being planned at Sector 81, Mohali. Spread over an area of 350 acres, the Knowledge City will comprise the National Institute of Nanotechnology, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research as well as an agri-food cluster. The DBT is involved in planning the agri-food cluster.

The agri-food cluster itself (about 150 acres) will have the National Agri-food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) and a Bioprocessing Unit (BPU) to provide scale-up facilities. Both, NABI and BPU are planned to come up as autonomous institutions under the DBT in an agri-food biotech park designed to house start-up companies. The park itself is proposed to be set up through public-private enterprise.

According to reports, NABI will work on innovative food processes and products keeping in view the current and future markets both within the country and abroad. It will be a center purely dedicated to translation. It will also be involved in training human resource in food science and technology as well as nutritional science. The BPU is designed to link the R&D system with a miniature production facility to serve as an incubator for start-ups. It will not only facilitate the scale-up and process optimization of new technologies developed by NABI or acquired through in licensing from other sources within India and abroad, but also services, consultancies and support to the start-up companies.

All the institutions in the agri-food cluster (NABI, BPU and agri-food biotech park) will share a common vision and have a common technical Board and a common CEO. This will be the first such cluster in India.

The agri-food cluster will get support from Canadian institutes like National Research Council, Canada, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, POS Pilot Plant Corporation, Saskatoon and Ag-west Bio, Saskatoon. Experts from these institutes will not only be providing valuable inputs towards the designing of the cluster proposal based on expertise available in Canada, but also provide technical support, consultancy, facilitation of industrial interaction and licensing agreements.


Government to launch nanoscience and nanotechnology mission

"The Government of India is embarking on the plans for launching a Nano Science and Technology Mission (Nano Mission) with estimated public investment of Rs 1,000 crore over the next five years to further intensify its promotional efforts in this area," said Kapil Sibal, Union minister for science and technology and earth sciences.

"As part of the Nano Mission, the government plans to launch a variety of educational and HRD programs, R&D programs, establish Centers of Excellence (CoEs), promote institution-industry linked projects through increased public private partnerships, promoting entrepreneurship through establishment of business incubators.

The Nano Mission also plans to make special efforts for development and commercialization of nanotechnology, not only through public private partnerships but also by encouraging and enabling the private sector to invest in, and leverage, this sunrise technology.

Realizing the immense potential of nanotechnology, countries across the world have been making substantial public investment for promoting this area, Sibal has said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha.

Various ministries/departments such as the department of science and technology (DST), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have been supporting R&D in nanoscience and technology.

DST launched a special Nano Science and Technology Initiative (NSTI) in October 2001. The NSTI has been focusing on research and development in nanoscience and technology in a comprehensive manner so that India can become a significant player in the area and contribute to the development of new technologies besides carrying out basic research at the frontier of knowledge.

The program supports R&D projects strengthening of characterization and infrastructural facilities, creation of Centers of Excellence (CoEs), generation of trained manpower and joint projects between educational institutions and industry for application development.


Bangalore Helix may open in June

The much-delayed biotech park, Bangalore Helix, is expected to open in June to coincide with the flagship biotech event in India-Bangalore Bio 2007. The first phase of this 106-acre park would house the Institute of Bioinformatics & Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) and the Center for Human Genetics.

MN Vidyashankar, IT and BT secretary, Government of Karnataka, said that the park would have a total floor space of 7,00,000 sft. Of this, 2,50,000 sft of build-up area is expected to be ready in a year's time. He said that many companies, both MNCs and Indian, have evinced interest in setting up operations in the park.

"We received 21 applications and have short-listed 16 companies including Alexandria, Gamin, L&T, two Singaporean companies and a Malaysian company," he said.

The park is being set up at a cost of Rs 350 crore with the government contributing equity in the form of land.

Vidyashankar also revealed that Bangalore is likely to get the ambitious stem cell research institute envisaged by the DBT, with the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore, having agreed in principle to grant 10 acres of land on its Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra campus in Bangalore. He said that this is the first such initiative to be undertaken by the Government of India, and the DBT was keen on this location as it would be close to the National Center for Biological Sciences campus.


Bio News BioServe signs deal with Merck Specialties

BioServe signs deal with Merck Specialties

BioServe Biotechnologies, the leader for fast, economical processing and analyses of genomic content from biological samples, has announced a distribution deal with Merck Specialties Private Limited (MSPL), 100 percent Indian subsidiary of Merck KgaA. Under terms of the contract, MSPL will market and distribute BioServe's genomic products and services, including DNA and RNA purification reagents, DNA sequencing, oligonucleotide synthesis and molecular biology teaching kits in India, with plans to extend distribution coverage across Asia in 2007. This partnership will bolster MSPL's genomics offering and gives BioServe expanded sales coverage across the Indian sub-continent.

"Merck is making use of the superlative quality of BioServe molecular research products to rapidly broaden our offerings," said AR Bhattacharjee, director, chemicals, MSPL. "We are pleased to provide our customers with proven products to tackle a wide range of genomic challenges," added Bhattacharjee.

For the last 15 years, BioServe has been helping pharmaceutical, biotech and leading public research institutions accelerate their discovery programs with pioneering molecular research products and services. Built around core services spanning nucleic acid purification, DNA synthesis, DNA sequencing and genotyping, and a cutting-edge production facility in India, BioServe delivers a complete biomaterial to validated data genomics solution. Today BioServe serves over 600 customers across 20 countries benefiting from project turn-around times that are 50 percent faster than the industry norm.

"BioServe's partnership with MSPL will broaden the reach of our technology and services into laboratories worldwide, allowing us to better serve our customers," said Rama Modali, president of BioServe Biotechnologies. "We look forward to building on the success achieved with scientists in basic research, drug discovery and development who trust the reliability of BioServe's data compared to other quantitative approaches."


Polyclone forays into Nucleic Acid Testing

Polyclone Bioservices, an early stage biotechnology company, has recently announced that it will be setting up a Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) facility. NAT, also called DNA/RNA based diagnostics, is a rapidly developing market and in most developed countries, it is a gold standard for diagnosis of several infectious diseases like TB, HIV and HCV. India with its growing popularity of becoming a medical hub is gaining acceptance in NAT.

Enhanced analytical specificity and sensitivity are the major advantages to nucleic acid testing. Polyclone with its expertise in molecular biology, intends to provide services to professional diagnostics outfits, thereby adding value to their current portfolio. The major objective is to bring down the cost and speed of diagnosis by more than half. Polyclone has initiated dialogue with the public health groups in Australia to transfer technologies for detection of certain pathogens. Initially Polyclone will start with TB, HIV and HCV assays and later scale up for other complex infectious diseases.

Naveen Kulkarni, director, Polyclone BioServices, said, "Our interest in bringing cancer diagnostic array has already aligned us to meet the needs of the diagnostics industry. Further, when there are epidemic breakdowns, which we saw recently like dengue, chikungunya and a few years back, SARS, a biotechnology company like ours can rapidly derive assays within a matter of few days for developing tests to accurately detect the pathogen and its sub class. We have seen that it is either very slow or impossible get such a rapid response to situations like those mentioned above by a traditional diagnostics outfit. We are collaborating with several pathology groups and currently analyzing the market to come out with the right strategy to bring out the best possible assays for the Indian market."


Clinigene PRIDE Study reaffirms Insugen safety and efficacy

Clinigene International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Biocon Ltd, has recently concluded a Postmarketing Results of INSUGEN Evaluation (PRIDE) Study. Biocon launched the recombinant human insulin, Insugen in November 2004 using Pichia expression.

The study says that the clinical response to INSUGEN was excellent in 99 percent of patients in terms of safety and 99 percent of the investigators (doctors) opined that safety with INSUGEN was at par with the leading marketed brands of insulin in the country.

The study also noted that INSUGEN in routine clinical practice has not shown any untoward, unanticipated adverse effects qualitatively and quantitatively compared to other Insulin preparations and the efficacy of INSUGEN in treating Diabetes mellitus is as expected by the investigators.

PRIDE Study is documented safety study conducted on Insulin vials in recent years involving 507 doctors and 6164 patients covering the length and breadth of the country. According to official release, this is the biggest Postmarketing Surveillance Studies (PMS) also called Phase IV studies for Insulin conducted in India. The number of patients involved were in excess of the regulatory requirement of 500 patients as stipulated by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI). Clinigene, India's first CAP (College of American Pathologists) accredited lab analyzed targeted patient records and prepared the report of the study.

Dr Arvind Attignal, chief operating officer, Clinigene, said, "This study involved the three formulations of INSUGEN i.e. INSUGEN R, N & 30/70 covering subjects with all types of Diabetes mellitus and those requiring Insulin. The response of the subject in terms of glycemic control was monitored by routine tests such as Fasting and Post Prandial blood sugar and HbA1c estimation. Overall, treatment with INSUGEN was administered to 334 patients (5.5 percent) with Type I Diabetes mellitus, whereas 5555 patients (92.6 percent) receiving formulations were diagnosed with Type II Diabetes mellitus."


Bio News New Page 1

India joins Human Frontier Science Program Organization

From left to right: Prof. A Surolia (New Delhi),
Prof. K VijayRaghavan (Bangalore), Prof. Masao Ito, president, HFSPO(seated), Prof. Torsten Wiesel, secretary general, HFSPO, after signing the Memorandum of Understanding, Strasbourg, on December 4, 2006.
Torsten Wiesel welcomes the new Indian Board members.

The Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) has welcomed India as a new contributing country to the Program. India's membership was confirmed at the HFSPO Board of Trustees meeting on December 4, 2006 with the signing of a MoU between the HFSPO and the Indian government. HFSPO president, Professor Masao Ito, said, "We are delighted that India is now a member of HFSPO. Indian scientists have already participated successfully in the grant and fellowship programs and it is excellent that India can now take an active role in the development of the program. This is an important recognition of the strength of Indian science and the strong commitment of the Indian government to support frontier basic research." Professor Torsten Wiesel, secretary general of HFSPO and Nobel Laureate, added, "The membership of India brings a new dimension to the global nature of the HFSP. The program has expanded considerably in the last two years with the accession of Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea and Indian membership substantially increases the strength of the HFSP in Asia. The strong tradition of Indian science in fields of research both within and outside biology ensures that Indian scientists will make a major contribution to the interdisciplinary science supported by the program."

Scientists from India will be able to take part fully in the coming research grant award cycle as principal investigators and are encouraged to take advantage of the new status to initiate international, interdisciplinary collaborations. The Human Frontier Science Program Organization was founded in 1989 to support international research and training at the frontier of the life sciences. Until now it has been supported by contributions from the G7 nations, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and the European Union. With its collaborative research grants and postdoctoral fellowship programs, it has supported almost 5,000 scientists from 64 countries over the last 16 years. The HFSPO supports research at the interface between life sciences and the physical sciences and places special emphasis on creating opportunities for young scientists.


NPIL signs drug development pact with Eli Lilly

(From left) Dr Robert W Armstrong, vice president, global external research and development-Lilly and Ajay Piramal, chairman, Nicholas Piramal India Ltd, exchanging the agreement document.

Nicholas Piramal India Ltd (NPIL) and Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) have signed a new drug development agreement to develop and, in certain regions, commercialize a select group of Lilly's-clinical drug candidates that span multiple therapeutic areas. The alliance seeks to increase productivity in drug development by synergizing the strengths of both companies and equitably sharing risk and reward.

As per the agreement, NPIL will be responsible for the design and execution of the global clinical development program, including IND-enabling non-clinical studies and human clinical trials up to Phase III. NPIL would receive a call-back payment, and potential milestone payments of up to $100 million, plus royalties on sales upon successful launch of the first compound.


Intas Biopharma, Progenetics work together to develop drugs from transgenic animals

Intas Biopharmaceuticals, a group company of Intas Pharmaceuticals, has entered into a joint venture with Progenetics LLC, a US-based company that has created transgenic animals producing Factor-IX (a drug used for treatment of Hemophilia-B), in milk. As per the agreement, Intas Biopharmaceuticals would develop drugs from such transgenic animals, carry out clinical trials and launch the drugs in India and in overseas markets.

Dr Urmish Chudgar, MD, Intas Biopharmaceuticals, said, "Products like Factor IX with a very limited market potential are often neglected by pharma companies. It is estimated that over 5,000 patients in India do not have any drug to cure Hemophilia B. We hope to bring relief through our joint commitment by working together towards drug development and treatment for patients suffering from Hemophilia B." Dr Julian Cooper, CEO of Progenetics, LLC said, "We are pleased to enter into this alliance with Intas Biopharmaceuticals as we believe the synergy will help our companies expand our key strengths and also provide the best medical cure to the patients in India."

Intas Biopharmaceuticals would be the first Indian biotech company to make drugs from transgenic animals and has set up a new state of the art manufacturing facility at Ahmedabad to develop drugs and carry out trials. Intas Biopharmaceuticals is aiming to be a global supplier for transgenic animal platform based products and the company plans to utilize the same transgenic platform for expression of other recombinant proteins in milk to fulfil the objective of the National Hemophilia Foundation and the World Federation of Hemophilia.

Bio News Lupin gets DCGI nod for Phase III trials for migraine NCE

Lupin gets DCGI nod for Phase III trials for migraine NCE

Lupin has received approval from the Drugs Controller General (India) (DCGI) to conduct Phase-III clinical trials for its anti-migraine compound LLL-2011 (Amigra).

The botanical drug product LLL-2011 is formulated as a nasal spray for use in the prophylaxis of migraine. Phase II clinical trials evaluated the nasal spray in different doses and the study was conducted as a multicentric, placebo-controlled, randomized, double blind, parallel group study.

According to the official release, the results of the study showed that LLL-2011 nasal spray is effective in the prophylactic treatment of migraine. It produced significant reduction in frequency of migraine attacks and on the Total Pain Index (TPI) of migraine in comparison to levels observed prior to treatment or levels in the placebo arm. The safety evaluation demonstrated that it was very safe and well tolerated. The company intends to begin Phase-III clinical trials in at least 10 centers across the nation. The total market for migraine is estimated to be more than $2 billion. Lupin has three other New Chemical Entities (NCEs) in various stages of clinical trials.


Glenmark receives upfront payment of €25m from Merck KGaA

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals SA (GPSA), the wholly owned Swiss subsidiary of Glenmark Pharmaceuticals (India), has, after the anti-trust clearance in the US, received €25 million from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Q3 FY2007. This constitutes the upfront payment under the recently concluded collaboration agreement for Glenmark's DPP-IV inhibitor GRC 8200 between the two parties.

GRC 8200 is a novel, oral DPP-IV inhibitor and Glenmark's lead molecule for Type II Diabetes. It is currently in Phase II clinical trials in South Africa and India. Under the agreement, Merck KGaA will develop, register and commercialize GRC 8200 for markets in North America, Europe and Japan, while Glenmark will retain commercialization rights for India.

The partners will share commercialization rights for other markets in the remainder of the world. Merck KGaA will bear the cost of all ongoing studies and will be responsible for planning, managing and sponsoring all development activities in the future. The value of all payments to Glenmark could total up to €190 million, including the €25 million up-front payment and various milestone payments upon successful development and launch of mono-therapy and combination products based on GRC 8200. Upon commercial launch, Glenmark will supply the active ingredient to Merck and will receive royalties on net sales of the product.


BHUVID Research Lab a new venture from Dr Lohray

Dr Braj B Lohray, former president of Zydus Research Center, the research wing of Zydus Cadila, has started a contract research organization called BHUVID Research Laboratory (BRL) in Ahmedabad. The BRL is a chemistry-driven contract research drug discovery, development and manufacturing company, focusing on new molecular entities, drugs and drug intermediates. It provides chemistry services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. At present, it operates from a rented premise that is expected to shift to the new facility in the next six-eight wherein state-of-the-art chemistry research laboratory and a kilo lab facility is under construction.

Dr Braj B Lohray, who is the CEO of BRL, said, "BRL offers an interface between chemistry and technology to carry out synthesis from its conception to commercial manufacturing with cost effective production in a safe work environment. BRL has high technical expertise and infrastructure to handle a diverse line of chemistries. BRL provides process optimization, cost reduction of existing process and scale up to deliver quality material from gram quantities to multi-kilo scale. BHUVID can also offer a range of APIs, chemical intermediates and building blocks for the pharmaceuticals, biotech and chemical industries."

He added, "We are also offering custom synthesis and contract manufacturing. Since the company is just in infant stage, we are in the process of setting up infrastructure in the first place before hiring number of people but we are so well connected with several research lab that we can pull resources even at the stage to provide good services with reasonable speed."


Bilcare, Honeywell to develop value added pharma packaging solutions

Bilcare Ltd, a research-based pharma packing solutions company based at Pune, has announced a regional developmental collaboration with Honeywell's Specialty Films Business to provide novel high barrier packaging solutions for the pharma sector.

The collaboration will help to address critical challenges faced by the industry such as counterfeit drugs, abuse/accidental misuse of drugs, medication compliance, providing adequate protection to the drugs for the retaining the efficiency and potency of the drug throughout its shelf life and effective management of clinical supplies for the global clinical trials.

Mohan Bhandari, CMD, Bilcare Ltd, said, "The partnership shall help to provide high performance materials for ensuring the safety of sensitive drugs. We will offer Honeywell's Aclar products to meet the needs of several key drug producers."


BioServe partners with Harvard, University of Michigan on Indian public health study

BioServe Biotechnologies, a provider of rapid, economical processing and analyses of genomic content from biological samples, has been selected to work with scientists from the Harvard and University of Michigan Schools of Public Health on a study aimed at understanding how genetics and environmental lead pollution interact to affect children's intellectual and behavioral functioning.

As per the agreement, BioServe will perform DNA purification and genotyping on tissue samples collected from 750 school children in Chennai who have been exposed to lead pollutants. The goal is to help the investigators determine whether genetic factors predispose children to or protect them from certain toxic effects.

Although it is known that high lead levels in the body can negatively affect intelligence, this is the first study in India to measure that effect. The study is unusual in that as it will measure how lead exposure affects both visual-spatial-motor skills and aggressive behavior and it is one of the first studies to research how individual genetic makeup may modify the neurobehavioral impact of lead exposure.


Bio News BV Biologicals signs pact with Israeli biotech firm

BV Biologicals signs pact with Israeli biotech firm

BV Biologicals, a division of Venkateshwara Hatcheries Pvt Ltd (VHPL) Group, specializing in advanced biological, nutritional and management of the livestock industry, has signed a co-development and marketing agreement with an Israeli company, Yamit Biotechnologies, for its first anti-mastitis biological "Y-Complex" product.

This agreement will lead to additional collaboration utilizing the "Y Complex" platform technology to other areas of veterinary and human diseases that could potentially benefit from the technology to develop non-antibiotic therapeutic products, an official press release said.

OP Singh, CEO, Venkateshwara Hatcheries, said, "The relationship between VH Group and Yamit Biotechnologies is paving the way for technical advancement and adding to impetus towards non-antibiotic directed treatment for bovine mastitis. Scientific outputs from this research shall be increased clean milk production and production while giving added value to global production of dairy products. BV Biologicals and Yamit shall also work together to develop human applications based on this platform technology."

Yosef Pinchasov, CEO, Yamit Biotechnologies, said, "This agreement will advance the registration of the bovine mastitis product in the US and EU, and initiate the development of newer applications in animals and humans as well. "


Napo enters into plant-screening agreement with NPIL for diabetes

Napo Pharmaceuticals, focused on developing and commercializing proprietary pharmaceuticals for the global marketplace, in collaboration with local partners and Nicholas Piramal India Ltd (NPIL), have entered into a plant screening agreement to discover novel diabetes therapeutic agents. As part of the pact, NPIL will utilize its high throughput screening facility and natural product chemistry expertise along with biological testing capabilities to identify active compounds from Napo's library of medicinal plant extracts from tropical regions. Napo and NPIL will jointly own all products that are developed under the agreement.

Lisa Conte, Napo's CEO said, "Our joint efforts in this agreement complement Napo's ongoing effort to develop NP-500, a candidate for Phase 2 clinical development with a novel mechanism of action against Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome."

Dr Somesh Sharma, CSO, NPIL said, "This agreement allows us to utilize our state-of-the-art screening capabilities and expertise in working with natural products for both companies' benefit, and at the same time provide NPIL with access to new product opportunities."


Lifecare Innovations to start operations at Biotech Park, Lucknow

Gurgaon-based Lifecare Innovations signed an agreement with Biotech Park, Lucknow in January 2007 for setting up R&D, product development, process development, scale-up, pilot plant and production center for commercialization of biotech products for health care including therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines.

On the occasion, a bhoomi poojan was also performed for construction of an appropriate building on the 1.5 acre plot leased out to Lifecare Innovations.

Lifecare Innovations is a medical biotechnology company engaged in research, development, manufacturing and marketing of healthcare products. The company specializes in controlled release pharmaceuticals employing an array of technologies of drug delivery systems. Lifecare Innovations is today acknowledged as the world leader in liposome technology.

The success of four anti-fungal products encouraged Lifecare Innovations towards unmet needs of patients and physicians for treatment of location-specific fungal infections and economizing safe and definite treatment of Kala-azar. Four novel formulations of Amphotericin B are under development to meet these requirements. While these products are being evaluated at premier medical institutions, the proposed lab of Lifecare Innovations at Biotechnology Park, Lucknow will facilitate the process development for their commercial

The company has also developed bio-degradable polymer based nano-formulation for sustained release of anti-tuberculosis drugs. Other countries and WHO have expressed interest in partnering further development and clinical evaluation of this drug to expedite availability to the patients. This novel nano-drug has shown potential for arresting the alarming growth in the incidence of MDR Tuberculosis. Permission for Phase I clinical trial from DGCI is expected soon. The production process for this novel formulation to produce commercial quantities needs to be developed on urgent basis and is proposed to be developed at Biotechnology Park, Lucknow.

Lifecare Innovations is at an advanced stage of firm negotiations with various prestigious laboratories from both within and outside the country for collaborative work for various novel drug developments and specific technologies for their production.

Future plans also include diversion into diagnostics and vaccines for all-human, veterinary, and poultry healthcare.


CSIR signs MOU with Alcoa

The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Alcoa. The MoU as part of the Alcoa's open innovation policy is to partner in collaborative research projects that address critical global issues such as energy efficiency, alternative and renewable energy sources, environmental technologies as well as multi-material engineered solutions.

The MoU establishes the CSIR/Alcoa Leadership Innovation Council that will steer and support innovations that generate value for both organizations.

"CSIR is happy to partner with Alcoa on challenging R&D activities that will help make tomorrow's world better," said the director general of CSIR. "We are looking forward to connecting researchers with common purposes and common goals around innovation."

"We are excited to partner with the research community in India and leverage our combined capabilities to develop solutions for some of the most difficult problems that face governments and business," said Dr Mohammad Zaidi, executive vice president, market strategy, technology and quality, Alcoa. "We are anxious to begin working on projects with CSIR that we have identified as areas of mutual interest."

Both CSIR and Alcoa will each have four standing members on the council, which will be co-chaired by Dr Swaminathan Sivaram, director, National Chemical Laboratory of CSIR, and Dr Ashok Nayak, director, external innovations and technology strategy, Alcoa.

Some of the areas of initial focus include energy innovations to ensure long-term sustainability of operations, environmental innovations that use nanotechnology and biotechnology to convert waste to products, packaging innovations that provide next-generation solutions to customers, and multi-material engineered solutions for a number of markets.


Course in genetic epidemiology and molecular genetics

The International School of Anthropology, Anthropological Survey of India, Mysore and Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, San Antonio, USA, is organizing a training course, "Diversity to Discovery" on genetic epidemiologic and molecular genetic techniques to distinguish the normal and disease-related complex phenotypes.

The three-week long training course will be held from April 7, 2007 in Mysore. The course is designed to provide the attendees with an up-to-date knowledge of state-of-the-art genetic epidemiologic and molecular genetic techniques that are routinely used to disentangle the genetic architecture of normal and disease-related complex phenotypes.

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