Reliance Life Sciences (RLS) has chalked out a strategy to build a robust foundation for its biotech business. A tour around its 20 acre facility located within the Dhirubhai Ambani Life Sciences Centre in Mumbai will give a clear indication of the queue of exciting developments to emanate from the company's stable in the next 12-18 months. Buzzing with activity, the campus houses RLS' laboratory research, pre-clinical research, clinical research and manufacturing facilities across its divisions which includes biopharmaceutical, pharmaceuticals, clinical research services, regenerative medicine, plant biotechnology, novel therapeutics and molecular medicine. The Dhirubhai Ambani Life Sciences Centre houses research labs over 120,000 sq ft of space.
A part of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Group, clocking estimated biotech revenues
693 crore for fiscal 2011-12, growing at CAGR of 52 percent over the past five years and having a total employee strength of 803 people, RLS has grown from strength to strength since it first commenced operations back in 2002. Recalls KV Subramaniam, president and CEO, Reliance Life Sciences, “People could never believe that Reliance could operate in the life sciences space. But we have been successful and our achievement has been that we have always kept the innovation engine growing within RLS.” The challenge at that time was finding the right set of competencies and building a strong and sustainable business.“Today we have reached a stage where all our products have been developed and manufactured in-house. We have a strong manufacturing base in India today,” he adds.
RLS' has a three-legged strategy today which is to increase its scale, widen its products line and expand its geographical reach. Building a sustainable business will come through depth, which is tapping new geographies and diversity of products. Its biopharmaceuticals division, which accounts for 80 percent of the company's total business, has been and will continue to be the dominant part of its business. “Our strategy in biopharma area, is to develop a wide range of plasma proteins and biosimilar products, first for the Indian market, and then market to the rest-of-the-world (ROW) markets and finally for the developed markets,” he says.
RLS is the only company in India producing plasma proteins and also has the largest number of products in the biosimilars space. RLS already has seven biosimilar products in the market. Another 20 products are in the pipeline and in different stages of development. This also includes first generation monoclonal antibodies, which are in clinical development. “For mAb products, we are looking at partnerships both regionally and globally,” adds Subramaniam. In novel proteins, RLS is presently looking at fusion proteins and antibodies for anti-cancer and anti-viral uses.
The Regenerative Medicine Group in RLS is developing a wide range of novel research-led, autologous and allogeneic cell therapies and tissue engineered products. RLS has also commercialized two stem cells therapies namely, ReliNethra (Autologous composite limbal epithelial graft prepared from the limbal biopsy for treating corneal disorders) and CardioRel (autologous bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells for Cardiac disorders). RLS is conducting clinical trials with stem cells for neurological disorders, melanocytes grafts for stable vitiligo and Allogeneic fibroblast for diabetic foot ulcers.
RLS is in the process of scaling up its manufacturing plants. Today it has six cGMP plants with four of them alone manufacturing plasma proteins and biosimilars. For biosimilars, RLS has the largest mammalian facility in India. Its manufacturing plant has a capacity of 10,000 litres.
RLS has chartered out a meticulous plan in pursuing global markets. For ROW countries, it would sell its products either on its own or through distributors. For Russia, CIS, China and the Latin American countries, RLS would explore partnerships. In China, partnerships would mainly be on the product development and manufacturing front. RLS's UK-based subsidiary, Reliance GeneMedix, is focusing on developing and marketing biosimilars in the European markets. Reliance GeneMedix has achieved progress for its EPO product, Epostim. The subsidiary is now looking at tapping bigger markets such as Brazil, Russia and the Middle East for this product. Within South East Asia, RLS views countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, and Myanmar as areas of opportunities.
The Clinical Research Services group looks at phase II and BA/BE studies. With a team strength of 110 people, this division provides clinical research services to both internal and external clients. Last year, it conducted a large scale trial for an MNC which involved 4,000 patients. Though its pharma specialties business today is small, Subramaniam is looking at bringing it to the same level as its biopharmaceutical business.
||Key strategy initiatives
- Strong growth (41.43%) due to focus on in-house research and building a strong manufacturing base.
- RLS has six cGMP plants with four of them alone manufacturing plasma proteins and biosimilars.
- Maintained a CAGR of 52 percent growth.
- Biopharma consititutes 80 percent of its business today. Has commercialized 7 biosimilar products in the market and has 20 more in the pipeline.
- Expand into ROW markets either on its own or through partnering with distributors. For Russia, CIS, China and the Latin American countries, RLS would explore partnerships. In China, partnerships would mainly be on the product development and manufacturing front.
- RLS's UK-based subsidiary, Reliance GeneMedix, is focusing on developing and marketing biosimilars in the European markets. The subsidiary is also looking at tapping bigger markets like Brazil, Russia and the Middle East for this product.
- For Biopharma, strategy is to develop a large number of biosimilars and plasma proteins.
- To meet current demands, the company will look to hire another 100 employees.
- Will look at partnerships for its mAbs products.
- Looking at scaling up its pharma business to the same level as its biopharma business.