, Chief Business Officer,
Polyclone Bioservices, Karnataka
Bettadpura is currently chief business officer of Polyclone
Bioservices. He has over 12 years of experience in business development
and international marketing in the life sciences and IT industries
across the US, Europe, APAC and India. Bettadpura’s previous roles
include, start-up and market expansion of North American division of an
Indian bioinformatics company in Connecticut, US; setting up of life
sciences division of a knowledge management consulting company in
Mumbai; and driving the sales of a software network management
solutions provider in Bangalore and Singapore.
As an early stage biology-driven research partner to the drug discovery
industry, Polyclone specializes in target discovery and validation
services with a focus on cancer and infectious diseases. Our customers
include biopharma and diagnostics innovators, developers of high
throughput research platforms and oligo and reagent companies. We
enable them to achieve their biology research goals by synergistically
combining silico and in-vitro approaches, thus giving direction to
their research and development pipeline.
Being in this niche and a highly IP sensitive field, we face several
challenges spanning commercial, confidentiality and scientific facets
that we overcome through a combination of strategies.
Target discovery, being the first step in the drug development process,
determines the fate of all the next phases and investment. Given its
critical nature, the field is replete with several pitfalls and
complexities. In cancer, it is particularly tricky to identify
druggable targets owing to the complexity of the disease’s origin and
its molecular biology. In infectious diseases, the challenge of
mutating viral targets (as in the H1N1 and other influenzas) makes
finding a target seem impossible.
Added to these are the generic challenges of making sense of the tera
bytes of genomic data, linking genotype-phenotype profiles and the
implausibility of using humans for studies. Increasingly, the drug
industry is realizing the specialized nature of target research and the
need to decouple it from in-house R&D. It is no wonder that 80
percent of the validated targets identified in the last nine years, are
through smaller biotechs and research alliances.
As a small biotech/research partner, the key challenge for us is to
break the myth that it is too early to outsource research at this
stage. We need to convince prospects that outsourcing is possible, and
we also need to make them understand that it is even more critical,
especially at the early stage. According to the Wall Street Journal,
several big pharma–small biotech deals in the recent past highlight
this growing trend and early-stage and preclinical biotech deals are
getting sweeter. The early stage deals in 2009 was 68 percent higher
than the year before while, the jump for phase II was a modest 39
percent. This is a clear indication that pharma companies are willing
to take risk at an early stage, when it is easy to write-off any
experimental products that don’t bring positive results in trials.
Closing the deal is only the beginning of the relationship and it takes
commitment from both sides to ensure its progress and success. At
Polyclone, we work with our partners as a true extension to their team,
and offer them the required seamlessness and easy interaction, while
ensuring that we provide the scientific insights and nimbleness that
the partner requires.
Since this is still the research-intensive conceptualization stage, it
is important to have an open and interactive relationship, that fosters
creativity and exchange of knowledge points. The success factor here is
to ensure that we treat the project not just as a contractual
obligation, but as a discovery project guided by specific timelines and
This is a challenge many a time, since there may be no definitive
result or the customer’s hypothesis may not be working out. It is
important to continually keep the customer updated about our approach
and progress, while warming them up to the possible outcomes – positive
This is imperative when we work on in-silico aspects like assay design,
structural simulation, drug receptor interaction modeling and data
In-silico approaches provide huge cost savings and provide perspectives
that may not otherwise be gained, in vitro validation is critical to
ascertain the findings and revert to the drawing board, if required.
At Polyclone we intersperse the in silico work with DNA/RNA and
cell-based validation on sample data, to ensure biological relevance
This multi-disciplinary approach that synergizes computational,
molecular and cell biology, combined with our access to patient samples
and data, gives us the holistic edge that our customers profit from.
Since most projects that we pursue are novel and diverse, we need to be
continually abreast of science, skills and technology at a global
level. After all, if we are working with innovators, we need to be one
step ahead, to be of true value to them. What we discover or validate
may often have no precedent or references, and it is the thoroughness
of our data and validation, that provides our customers the confidence
to take a decision on the next phase.
The other challenges that come up are common to CROs across all phases
– ensuring and convincing customers of IP confidentiality, guaranteeing
ethical compliance, and providing commercial and innovation value that
customers seek from Indian companies.
The mantra is to innovate better, faster and cheaper and make no
compromises in the process!