• 5 November 2008
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New Page 1

Panacea Biotec takes 14% stake in US biodefense company

Panacea Biotec Ltd has entered into a strategic alliance with PharmAthene Inc, Annapolis, MD, US, a biodefense company developing medical countermeasures against biological and chemical threats. The alliance includes a strategic equity investment of 14.5 percent of PharmAthene's issued and outstanding common stock and warrant by Panacea through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Kelisia Holdings Ltd.

Under the financing arrangement, Panacea Biotec's subsidiary has agreed to purchase approximately 3.73 million shares of PharmAthene common stock at a negotiated price of $3.50 per share. Upon the closing, Panacea Biotec's subsidiary will also receive 12-month warrants to purchase up to approximately 2.75 million additional shares of PharmAthene common stock at an exercise price of $5.10 per share.

Under a related agreement, PharmAthene has the first right of negotiation for US distribution of certain of Panacea Biotec's biodefense products and may enter into discussions with Panacea Biotec regarding potential strategic collaborations that could include development and manufacturing by Panacea Biotec of certain PharmAthene biodefense products. The investment will increase PharmAthene's ongoing product development activities, enhance working capital, and provide new resources for corporate growth.

"An alliance with PharmAthene presents important strategic opportunities to create value for both of our companies," said Rajesh Jain, JMD, Panacea Biotec.


GangaGen gets $1.8m from ATEL Ventures

Bangalore, Canada and US-based biotechnology company GangaGen Inc has raised $1.8 million in second round of funding from ATEL Ventures, a San Francisco based venture fund. GangaGen is developing bacteriophage-based remedies for some of the bacterial infections, particularly the infections that are resistant to antibiotics. GangaGen has two subsidiaries viz. GangaGen Biotechnologies Pvt Ltd, Bangalore (India) and GangaGen Life Sciences Inc, Ottawa (Canada). GangaGen is a biopharmaceutical research & development company focused on the development of novel therapies against antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, for medical, veterinary, agricultural and environmental applications. It also has several patents in its area of R&D. It has operations in Canada and US.

Formed in 2000 by J Ramachandran, GangaGen has earlier raised $2 million from angel investors and $5 million from ICF Ventures. In a release, the company said that the funding will be used to support the growth of GangaGen's product lines that are aimed at treating antibiotic-resistant infections.

"The rise of super bugs and the need for antibiotic alternatives make this an excellent opportunity," said Steve Rea, executive vice president at ATEL Ventures, a division of ATEL Capital Group. "We are confident that we will soon be seeing GangaGen's innovative approach revolutionize the treatment of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA),"he added.


Bharat Biotech bags Orissa "Biotech Pharma IT Park" Project

The Orissa Government has selected Bharat Biotech International as the developer for its first Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) "Biotech Pharma IT" project in the state. The park to be located at Mouza-Andharua, Bhubaneswar, is estimated to cost about Rs100 crore and it is slated to be completed in eight years.

The Orissa government has allocated 54.86 acres of land to Bharat Biotech towards the development of an integrated industrial park to attract and promote pharmaceutical, biotechnology and information technology industries in Bhubaneswar in the Private Public Partnership mode. The Park is the first of its kind in Orissa envisages promotion of biotech, pharmaceuticals and IT industries in the State.

Making the announcement Dr Krishna Ella, CMD, Bharat Biotech International, said "We are delighted that the Orissa Government has acknowledged our competence and awarded this prestigious project to BBIL. Our task is to focus on rapid development of this park by developing core infrastructure and technology to enable establishment of new companies whereby new local entrepreneurs in the biotechnology field will be created."

Bharat Biotech will form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to develop the BT-Pharma-IT Park at Andharua. The SPV will execute the lease cum development agreement of the Bharat Biotech with Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO). The State Government of Orissa and IDCO have agreed to provide all external infrastructure facilities, such as road connectivity, water supply, power supply with 33 KVA sub-station etc to facilitate rapid development of internal infrastructure


UK-based Green Biologics to set up biobutanol plant in India

Green Biologics and Mumbai-based Laxmi Organic Industries have signed an agreement to build a commercial-scale biobutanol plant in India. The demonstrator plant is expected to produce 1,000 metric tons of butanol a year starting in 2010. Green Biologics said it's now looking to raise 3$6.33 million to roll out its renewable chemicals technology, which uses fermentation to produce biochemicals from waste and by-product feedstocks.

Oxfordshire, England-based Green Biologics said the biobutanol plant will run on molasses produced by the Indian sugarcane industry, which has been ramping production to meet demand for renewable energy.


Bharat Renewable energy to set up $480 million biodiesel plant

Mumbai-based Bharat Renewable Energy, plans to spend Rs 2,200 crore (USD 480 million) to grow more than a million acres of jatropha on Indian wasteland in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Bharat Renewable Energy is a joint venture of state-run refiner Bharat Petroleum, jatropha-cultivator Nandan Biomatrix and construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji. Bharat Renewable Energy was created in June to make biofuels from crops, such as jatropha and pongamia pinnata, an Indian birch.

The venture has a goal of producing a million metric tons of biodiesel from the jatropha plantation by 2015. A government plan-the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme-is expected to pay for the saplings and planting.


Universal Biofuels in process of raising funds in India through a pre IPO and IPO

Another biofuel firm Universal Biofuels, which is promoted by a US-based company AE Biofuels, is in the process of raising funds in India through a pre IPO and IPO. The investments are not frozen yet but VC Circle learns that the firm is looking to raise around Rs 200 crore through 40 percent equity dilution including the pre IPO placement and the public float. This would value it at around Rs 500 crore, behind Biotor and Roshini Biotech.


Morgan Stanley to acquire 30.4% stake in Biotor Industries

Even as crude oil prices have slumped back to the sub $100 a barrel mark, there is immense interest in alternate energy sources such as biofuel. In one of the big ticket deals in India, Morgan Stanley Private Equity is picking 30.4 percent stake in Biotor Industries for Rs 240 crore ($53 million).

According to VCCircle, Morgan Stanley arm will pick equity and compulsorily convertible preference shares totaling about 30.4 percent of the post issue paid up capital of the firm. The deal will value Biotor at Rs 790 crore ($175 million).

Mumbai-based Biotor is engaged in the manufacturing of castor oil based products and derivatives which are used in various industries such as agriculture, cosmetics, electronics and telecom, food lubricants, paper and ink, paints, plastics.

Last year Biotor had implemented a sebasic acid project and is in the process of implementing a SEZ project at Vilayat near Baruch in Gujarat. It plans to set up a manufacturing unit there.

Biotor has three subsidiaries including two wholly owned firms in US and Germany which have been set up for marketing and distributing the products manufactured by Biotor. In addition, it has a 60 percent stake in Biotor Contract Farming which is into contract farming for castor oil seeds. Biotor is in the process of acquiring the balance shares in this firm making it a wholly owned unit.

Not much is known about the promoters of Biotor. However, the firm is well capitalized. It has an equity capital of Rs 21.05 crore besides Rs 10 crore preference capital all of which is held by Indian shareholders.

The deal with Morgan Stanley will value Biotor ahead of Hyderabad based Roshini Biotech. Goldman Sachs had reportedly picked up a 25 percent stake in the company for around Rs 170 crore which would have valued it at Rs 680 crore (approximately USD 151 million), though there was no formal announcement of the deal yet. This was the second round of PE funding in Roshini. Last year, Origo Sino-India Plc, an investment and strategic advisory company focused on Chinese and Indian markets, picked up 20 percent equity stake in Roshini Biotech for a mere $2 million.

These fund raising plans are seen as a precursor to a public float by Roshini in 2011.

Note: Investment News has been taken from VC Circle (www.vccircle.com)


Serum Institute picks stake in Panacea Biotec

India's largest biotech company Serum Institute of India now has close to 7 percent stake in the Delhi-based Panacea Biotec. Serum has hiked its holding in Panacea Biotec on October 14, 2008 through bulk deal at Rs 220 per share. Part of this equity stake was bought from South Korean asset management firm, Mirae. This deal is significant as Serum Institute and Panacea are the top two Indian firms in the vaccine business. The promoters of Panacea hold 65.22 percent stake in Panacea Biotec as of September 30.


Biocon crosses Rs 700 crore in sales

Biocon announced its financial performance for the half year ending September 30, 2008. The group revenues of the company (including AxiCorp which it acquired some five months ago) increased 33 percent from Rs 553 crore) in H1FY08 to Rs 734 crore in H1FY09. Pharma sales (excluding licensing income and Axicorp) registered 21 percent growth bolstered by a 36 percent growth in its retail healthcare business.

The recently acquired German company, AxiCorp made a modest debut in the group's profitability and contributed Rs 141 crore to the topline. The net sales of the company stood at Rs 703.23 crore for the six months. Total income of the company increased by 7 percent.

"Biocon's H1FY09 performance has shown resilience despite being impacted by rupee volatility, which has seen us make mark-to-market provision of Rs 60 crore. At a time when global businesses are challenged with an economic downturn, we believe that our strong financial base gives us a significant advantage. Q2FY09 has seen us deliver the highest ever revenues across all divisions. Our API business has registered a 21 percent year on year growth bolstered by 36 percent growth in our retail branded formulations. Syngene has had a particularly strong quarter delivering its best ever sales and operating profit," said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon

The company is making progress on the research front with its oral insulin IN 105 program, set to enter Phase III clinical trials and the anti-CD6 monoclonal antibody nearing the completion phase for patient enrollment. Biocon also filed 11 new patents in Q2FY09 bringing the total tally to 892 filed and 166 granted patents.


NeoBiocon, Abraxis launch Abraxane in UAE

NeoBiocon, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi-based Neopharma and Biocon, have jointly launched Abraxane in the UAE. Abraxane is currently available in the UAE as a single-use 100 mg vial as a lyophilized powder, to be reconstituted for intravenous administration.

Abraxane, the paclitaxel protein-bound particles for injectable suspension, used in treating breast cancer, is given after failure of combination therapy for metastatic disease or relapse within six months of adjuvant chemotherapy.

"The launch of Abraxane in the UAE represents a major strategic step in our plan to provide safer and more effective cancer treatments on a global scale," said Patrick Soon-Shiong, Chairman and CEO, Abraxis BioScience. "In addition to the UAE, our marketing agreement with Biocon covers more than 10 countries and we are working closely with national authorities throughout the region to receive regulatory approvals and commence marketing activities as soon as practicable."

"Abraxane is a significant advance in taxane therapy for the treatment of breast cancer. This unique product eliminates the need for chemical solvents and allows for higher doses of paclitaxel without compromising safety and tolerability," said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.


News New Page 2

Reliance Life Sciences launches breast cancer genomics portal

The Molecular Medicine Group of Reliance Life Sciences has developed a portal (http://relibrca.rellife.com) to help the medical fraternity predict familial and/or early on-set breast cancer in Indian women. The ReliBRCA portal aims to make data generated by the scientific community easily accessible to doctors and oncologists, to help identify hotspots and targets for easy intervention for "predictive diagnosis" and possibly in "prognosis and therapy". Breast cancer constitutes 18.5 percent of the total new cancer cases in Indian women today.

The portal will include published data and to-be published data defining mutations and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (variations called SNPs) on BRCA1/BRCA2 genes, associated with increased susceptibility to breast cancer. This initiative is the first BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation/SNP database in Indian women. The portal is launched with an initial report of 500 alterations. It is interactive and accessible to all, enabling submission and accrual of global inputs.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, has a database of about 200 mutations, which have been reported and recorded. While the NIH database primarily provides such data in the global context, it has minimal data on Indian women.

The ReliBRCA database developed by the Molecular Medicine Group of Reliance Life Sciences is an effort to bridge this gap.

At Reliance Life Sciences, the Molecular Medicine Group offers a diagnostic assay to predict high risk, moderate risk or risk same as reported in Indians, using the global protocol of defining the mutations by sequencing the entire BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene.


Advinus, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharma collaborate for drug discovery and development

Bangalore-headquartered Advinus Therapeutics Pvt Ltd (A TATA Group of Companies) has announced drug-discovery and development collaboration with Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (OMJPI), a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Under the agreement, Advinus and OMJPI have agreed to develop drug candidates for various disease targets. Advinus will be responsible for drug discovery and early clinical development (until the completion of Phase 2a studies), while OMJPI will have an option to advance the drug candidates into late stage clinical trials and will be responsible for worldwide commercialization of the molecules. As per the agreement, Advinus will receive an upfront payment and could receive milestone payments of up to $247 million upon successful development of two targets. Advinus is also eligible for royalties on the sales of any drug products resulting from the collaboration.

"We have not specified the disease areas and the options are kept open. We will be discussing upon this very soon. We will start with two targets but not in the neglected diseases," added Rashmi H Barbhaiya, CEO and MD, Advinus Therapeutics. The disease targets will be focused more on metabolic and inflammatory diseases. Advinus Therapeutics was earlier in news for its drug discovery alliances with Genzyme Corporation and Medicines for Malaria Venture to accelerate discovery of novel therapies for malaria and also with Merck (for which they have already received three milestone payments). "With all this, financially we have achieved breakeven and by the end of the financial year we should be well over Rs 100 crore," said R Gopalakrishnan, executive director, Tata Sons Limited.

Commenting on its biological plans, Barbhaiya told Biospectrum, "Biotechnology is a huge opportunity and is considered the next big thing. But right now, we want to focus on small molecules because that is our strength. The reason why I am very hesitant is that manufacturing of biologicals is very tricky and until I find a good partner, I will be keeping these plans on hold."


Ocimum bags patents for gene expression systems

Ocimum Biosolutions was recently issued two US patents. One of them covers the company's proprietary system and method for determining matching patterns within gene expression data and another covers the method for determining renal toxins.

The pattern-matching methodology helps in retrieving clinically relevant and biologically significant patterns by making optimal use of information imbibed in the biological data. The data includes biological samples, related information on diseases, medications, tissues and other sample parameters present in the database.

The second patent covers the elucidation of global changes in gene expression and the identification of toxicity markers in tissues or cells exposed to a known renal toxin. The genes may be used as toxicity markers in drug screening and toxicity assays. The invention also includes a database of genes characterized by toxin-induced differential expression that is designed for use with microarrays and other solid-phase probes.

"The granting of these patents reflects our continued focus on innovation and commitment to strengthen our intellectual property portfolio. Such cutting-edge research and techniques contribute immensely to our global reputation as a preferred partner for genomic solutions and services with global biotech, pharmaceutical companies and research organizations," said Anu Acharya, CEO, Ocimum Biosolutions.


DCGI promises to improve regulatory frameworks

Public private partnerships should be pursued more vigorously if the benefits of the clinical research sector in India are to truly reach and benefit the global clinical research market. This was the thrust of the two-day international conference on "Clinical Research and Drug Development" held in Mumbai on October 10-11, 2008.

The conference was organized by the Institute of Clinical Research (India), ICRI, a leading institution in clinical research studies, in partnership with Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.

Dr Surinder Singh, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), Government of India, said, "By the year 2010, India will be at par with the global clinical research market." He emphasized on "CRO registry, an approval system for site and inspection, sound monitoring systems for trial guidelines made by IRB and the Ethics Committee and putting in place a finger printing mechanism for patient enrollment coupled with e-governance structure which will also allow every application for the approvals of trials to be viewed. We should also work closely with the FDA of USA to set up training programs."

Urging the industry to come closer and commending ICRI for its efforts, Debashish Panda, IAS, joint secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, said, "An association of clinical research professionals and society members with an institution like ICRI in the forefront would help form the export promotion council to promote the business of clinical research and open the market to the international pharmaceutical industry giving a fillip to the Indian industry."


Assocham calls for speedy approval of clinical trials

Assocham, the leading body of the chambers of commerce of India, has sought the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention in restructuring the process of clinical trial approval in the country. It is demanding reduction in the approval time for the clinical trials in the country to 30 days.

According to Assocham the long bureaucratic processes in the Health Ministry and other relevant departments delay the process. "While in countries like Canada, the UK, the US and the Netherlands, the approval is accorded in a month's time, in India it takes a minimum of eight months in getting clinical trials approvals," the chamber said.

"Though the domestic pharma companies spend a lot of money on R&D to come out with most innovative drugs, they lose on patenting their discoveries because of the delays," Assocham said in its representation to the Prime Minister. Swati Piramal, Assocham's senior vice president who is also director of Strategic Alliances, Piramal Healthcare led the representation to the PM.


I Am No Lab Rat campaign against GM food launched on World Food Day by Greenpeace

A people's campaign against GM foods was launched in October. "It is horrifying to think that we are now being subjected to an experiment that is irreversibly changing our food. It is scary to even think that one day all I can have is Genetically Modified food, which I don't want to", said Ramya, popular actress from Karnataka, at the launch of "I Am No Lab Rat" campaign, an initiative against the Genetically Modified food proliferation.

The campaign, launched on the World Food Day, had models who came out strongly against GM food.

The primary objective of I Am No Lab Rat campaign is to mobilize public opinion on the alarmingly growing and uncontrolled GM food, and urge the Union Health Minister, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss to ban such unsafe food said the campaigners.

According to Divya Raghunandan, campaigns director, Greenpeace, the genetic engineering research in India has increased by almost 250 percent in the last three years. "After brinjal, which is in the last stage of approvals without its safety independently verified, there are 25 kinds of GM rice varieties and 23 kinds of GM tomato and also includes groundnut, potato, cabbage, cauliflower and ladies' finger, which will get approved if we don't raise our voice and stop it now," she said.

Greenpeace's recently released Genetic Gamble report states that there are over 169 unknown GMOs being tested in our food crops. These include staples such as rice, maize and traditional favorites such as okra (ladies' fingers). "Even trees and traditional Ayurvedic medicinal herbs have not been spared and are being subject to Genetic Engineering," said Surya, sustainable agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace.

"The GEAC is completely dependent on the data provided by the GM companies themselves. The Food Safety ad Standards Authority has so far not done anything to allay public fears on safety of GM food", added Surya.

The launch of the I Am No Lab Rat campaign follows the apparent green signal from the GEAC about safety of Bt Brinjal, though there have been no long term studies done to indicate the safety of the first GM food crop of India. "At the international level, GM food has been either banned or strict restrictions implemented in the European Union, Japan, South Korea and many countries in Africa. Yet India continues to live in the fantasy that GM is the panacea for many of our food and agriculture problems" opined Surya.

The launch is part of a larger national campaign to reach out to Indian citizens to have their say food safety debate.

As a part of the campaign, citizens across the country have been writing to the Union Health Minister Dr Ambumani Ramadoss to step in and stop unsafe GM food immediately.



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