• 11 July 2008
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Wal Mart The Big Pharma of 2020

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Wal Mart The Big Pharma of 2020

Due to the rapid developments in genomics and personalized medicine, the health care Iindustry will witness unprecedented changes in the next 10 to 20 years and the landscape will alter. In fact, Wal Mart could become the world's healthcare provider, predicts industry guru, Steven G Burrill. A special report from San Diego by BioSpectrum Editor, Narayanan Suresh.

n 2008, when a person feels unwell, he or she rushes to the nearest hospital. In 2020, it may be different. The person may head to the nearest Wal Mart if he is in the US. People in other countries may rush to Wal Mart like store that may have a range of easy-to-use diagnostic facilities, and trained medical personnel to provide quality care quickly.

This was just one of the scenario visualized for the healthcare industry by Burrill, who shared the highlights of the much-awaited annual ritual at the BIO International Convention, held in San Diego this time. "I may be called a heretic for making such statements now by some people. But I will have my last laugh in 2020," prophesized Burrill, whose annual industry predictions are received with great enthusiasm at BIO events. He presented the company's 22nd annual report, titled "Biotech 2008-Life Sciences: A 20/20 Vision for 2020"

Burrill pointed out that the personalized medicine has been advancing rapidly. Diagnostic methods were also becoming more accurate and common place and also cheap. This would pave way for companies like Wal Mart to become big providers of healthcare services to consumers directly.

He predicted that the healthcare services would be driven by consumers. This would mean that consumers will chose competitively priced medical products and services. "They may not care if the products they consume are patented or not," he said during the 250-slide power point presentation, heard with rapt attention by over 1,000 participants.

Burrill predicted that the technological advances in medicines have already increased the life expectancy to 80 years for the citizens of many countries. By 2020, the average life expectancy may cross 100. Such longevity may lead to unprecedented changes in the society.

Predictions

The majority of drug discovery will be conducted in silico

Business models will be radically different

  • Biotechs dominate innovation

  • Pharmas are distributors

  • Governments are the major customers

Healthcare will be centrally delivered

  • The $1,000 genome will be a reality

  • Smart cards will contain a person's genome and health records

  • Individual decision-making will be embraced in the new healthcare system

Combination therapies

  • We will know more about the "circuit" diagrams of disease and new medicines will combine a diagnostic (safety) with a drug along with a delivery device (compliance) Spare parts

  • Driven by progress in stem cells and regenerative medicine

Wellness

  • The pendulum will swing to prediction and prevention driven by employers rewarding its employees for engaging in fitness and wellness programs

  • There will be a robust nutraceuticals industry

Agbio

  • Transgenics becomes mainstream

  • Countries develop own GM technology/no longer at the whim of multinationals

  • GM growth holds steady

  • Plant made pharmaceuticals become a reality

Industrial Biotechnology

  • By 2020, environmental issues will drive biofuel economy

  • Growth trend for biomaterials-feedstocks become less reliant on fossil fuels, more on renewable sources

So today's pharma generics company may gain the upper hand over the innovator companies and India and China could emerge as the most influential players in the healthcare sector by 2020. Such developments could alter the pharma industry landscape, Burrill said. It would lead to radical changes in the way companies develop and market drugs to the way individuals pay for and receive medical services.

Burrill said babies born in 2020 may come out of hospital with smart cards which will have all the genomic information.

Burrill's other predictions for 2020

  • Devices like BlackBerry which use internet technology could have a variety of sensors which will monitor the owner's health conditions and alert doctors continuously.

  • Nano devices in the blood will diagnose and repair problems.

  • The ability to design and test new drugs using computer simulations (in silico) as well as new capabilities to test for harmful side effects on model systems assembled on computer chips will continue to improve.

  • Implants and prostheses that mimic biological functions, restore critical functions to existing organs or tissues, or even augment those function will begin to appear.

  • People will be able to purchase organs off-the shelf or even grow them on their own.

Biofuels

Burrill emphasized that biotechnology tools were capable of finding lasting solutions to the looming energy crisis. Cellulose-based biofuels extracted from agricultural wastes such as straw could be one of the solutions.

Humans are capable of finding the right solutions to such crisis, he said. "The stone age did not come to an end because humans could not find enough stones to make tools. Similarly, the modern world is not going to come to an end because we can't find enough fossil fuels."

How the industry fared in 2007

  • The key findings of Burrill about the performance of the biotech industry in 2007 were:

  • The global biotech industry grew by 19 percent to record $106 billion in revenues.The R&D spends were about $28 billion.

  • There were 28 new biotech IPOs in 2007; financing and partnering deals raised nearly $45 billion for US companies alone.

  • Biotech crops acreage grew 12 percent and 12 million farmers around the world are benefiting from biotechnology.

Overall, Burrill presented a rosy and robust picture of the performance of the biotechnology industry. He expects the biotech sector rise to the demands from the consumers worldwide to develop appropriate products to meet the growing needs to fuel, heal and feed the world, which was the theme of the BIO 2008 event in San Diego.

Top 10 Biotech Companies by Market Cap

Position

Biotech 1986

Biotech 1991

Biotech 1996

Biotech 2001

Biotech 2006

Biotech 2007

1

Genentech

Amgen

Amgen

Amgen

Genentech

Genentech

2

Cetus

Genentech

Genentech

Genentech

Amgen

Amgen

3

ALZA

ALZA

Chiron

Elan

Gilead Sciences

Gilead Sciences

4

Applied Biosystems

Centocor

ALZA

Shire

Celgene

Genzyme

5

Centocor

Chiron

Biogen

ALZA

Biogen Idec

Celgene

6

Amgen

Genzyme

Genzyme

Biogen

Genzyme

BiogenIdec

7

Nova

Cetus

Genetics Institute

Chiron

Serono (ADR)

Shire ADR

8

Chiron

Synergen

Centocor

Immunex

Shire (ADR)

Elan

9

Genetics Institute

Genetics Institute

IDEXX

MedImmune

Quest Diagnostices

Amylin

10

Biogen

Diagnostic Products

Immunex

Millennium

MedImmune

Millennium Pharmaceuticals

Source: Burrill & Company

 

Key Industry Stats – Biotech 2008

 

USA

Europe

APAC

Canada

Total

Sales / Rev

$89B

$12B

$3.5B

$1.5B

$106B

AnnualR&D

$23B

$4B

$0.4B

$0.8B

$28B

No. of Companies

1,450

1,600

740

450

4300

No. of Employees

131,000

10,000

13,000

7000

151,000

No. of Public Companies

370

160

140

75

745

Market Cap

$455B

$30B

$50B

$12B

$547B

Source: Burrill & Company

Bio 2008 San Diego New Page 2

Biotech industry prepares for biosimilars in US

The grudging acceptance of the pharma generics in many key markets in the world is now paving the way for the entry of biosimilars in the US market too. Experts are convinced that it is no longer the question of desirability but the timing of the entry of generics in biologicals. Some industry views from BIO, San Diego.

The European Union paved the way for the introduction of biosimilar or generic versions of popular biotech medicines in 2005. The world's largest pharma market, the US, too is now preparing for the entry of these generic biotech products, according to biotech industry experts.

Participating in the inaugural session of the 16th edition of the annual US biotech industry meet, BIO San Diego, industry experts, offered a large number of suggestions to the evolution of a new regulatory framework that will allow the entry of biosimilars and also ensure the interests of the innovative biotech companies.

Experts expected US lawmakers to take the final steps which may either encourage the entry of biosimilars or destruction of the emerging industry by the steps they make take within the next six to eight months, said the CEO of Momenta Pharmaceuticals, an innovator-turned biosimilar company in Massachusetts. He advised the US government to ensure adequate funding and creation of expertise within the regulatory system of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) so that quality standards could be maintained when biosimilars finally make their entry into the US market.

Almost all the speakers referred to the pioneering regulatory framework evolved by the European Union to guide the entry of follow on biologicals (FOB) in the last few years. Europe allowed its first FOB, Omnitrope in August 2005. This was introduced by Sandoz, a division of Novartis. The company has since got the permission to introduce Binocrit in August 2007.

Europe, experts pointed out, has created a stringent regulatory system for FOBs and treated them to its rigorous approval process followed for pharmaceutical products. Extensive studies have been done to ensure that FOBs introduced in the market are of the highest quality.

It was revealed that the European regulator has issued the guidelines for two classes of products such erythropoietiens and somatropins. The regulator has rejected various applications for human insulin and alpha interferon analogues in recent months and has asked for more studies to ensure pharmakokinetic equivalence.

Experts agreed that FOBs were the future and it will ensure that the biotech industry retains its competitiveness due to stiff competition from the alternate drug makers. The FOBs were likely to be technologically as sophisticated as the innovative products and would be made efficient, low cost producers in many developed countries. "In fact, we are now on the threshold of creating a new industry which will be specializing only in making FOBs," announced an industry expert.

 

Biotech gets record $7.4 billion in VC funds in 2007: E&Y

The global biotech industry has had a great year in 2007 by raising nearly $30 billion in investments and getting nearly $7.4 billion in venture funds, according to the 22nd Global Biotechnology Report of Ernst & Young. Some highlights.

Despite a dip in new product approvals to just 12, the global biotechnology is alive and kicking well. It raised nearly $30 billion in investments from different areas with venture capital investors alone pouring in over $7.4 billion in 2007. And the US biotech industry is almost close to breakeven with the collective net loss just 0.5 percent of the annual sales.

"In 2007, investors were drawn to the tremendous value of biotech's innovation, with impressive results, as venture financing and deal making reached unprecedented heights," said Glen Giovannetti, Ernst & Young's Global Biotechnology Leader while releasing the highlights of the 22nd "Beyond Borders: the Global Biotechnology Report 2008" at the BIO International Convention here. The report was put together by a team led by Gautam Jaggi.

"To continue its multi-year track record of progress, the industry must meet the current challenges of cooling public equity markets, greater regulatory scrutiny and higher product approval and reimbursement hurdles with fiscal discipline and the creativity and innovation for which it is known," Giovannetti said.

Some of the highlights are:

  • The global biotechnology industry had a very strong year on the financing front. Companies in the Americas and Europe raised more than $29.9 billion-a new high excluding the outlier genomics bubble year of 2000.

  • Venture financing reached an all-time high in 2007 with investment totaling about $7.5 billion, fueled by a record total of $5.5 billion in the US and 72 percent growth in Canada.

  • Global public biotechnology company revenue rose by eight percent in 2007, crossing the $80 billion threshold for the first time. Minus the acquisition of several leading biotech revenue producers by big pharma, revenue would have increased by about 17 percent–in line with the industry's historical compound annual growth rate.

  • The global industry's net loss decreased from $7.4 billion in 2006 to $2.7 billion in 2007. In the US, the industry came closer to aggregate profitability than in any previous year.

  • Deal making reached new heights in 2007. In the US, the total potential value of deals announced during the year-including mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances-was close to $60 billion, outdistancing all other years by a wide margin. In Europe, the total potential value of such deals skyrocketed to about $34 billion.

There is good news from the biotech segment in Europe too. The report said the industry is now able to draw strategic buyers with lots of deals and the companies are also having more maturing product pipelines.

"Today as the industry faces a more difficult financing environment ahead, it will need to build on its enduring strength by translating its maturing pipeline into marketed products over the next couple of years." said Jürg Zürcher, Ernst & Young's biotechnology leader for Switzerland and Central Europe.

While industry performance was strong on several fronts in 2007, emerging challenges have made the road ahead more difficult for many biotech companies. In the US, product approvals slowed, as safety concerns related to new and already approved products increased, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) faced resource constraints. In the UK, growing pricing pressures brought the first-ever agreement by a company to refund a payer for the cost of treating patients that do not respond to its medication. In China, safety issues prompted a determined regulatory response. Meanwhile, the industry faces more stringent enforcement of numerous regulations–from sales and marketing.

For the first time, the report analyzed in details the emerging trends such as the rise of personalized medicine, globalization and research productivity. The adoption of personalized medicine is being hastened by business drivers such as pricing pressures and safety concerns. The Beyond Borders report predicts that personalized medicine will fundamentally alter the competitive landscape, changing the bargaining power of small and big drug companies and forcing firms to reassess traditional sources of competitive advantage.

Globalization

Similar to personalized medicine, globalization is radically altering the traditional competitive advantages of pharma and biotech companies. While the initial focus has been to lower drug development costs, these financial gains will be temporary, according to the report. The real opportunity is for western companies to work with partners in emerging markets to develop innovative products suited specifically for local market conditions.

In the Europe, the number of products in the clinical trials stage increased by nine percent to 1,712 in 2007 from 1,576 in 2006.

In Asia Pacific, the industry is chugging along with the revenues growing by 21 percent to over $4.5 billion. The strongest performance in the region came from Australia's CSL due to the strong sales of its cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil. Biotech companies raised over $750 million in IPOs in the region with five Chinese companies listing on US stock exchanges. Eight companies went public in Australia.

 

Targeted therapies top biotech innovations in 2007: Deloitte

For the biotech entrepreneurs, here is the news to watch out for. Innovations continue to dominate the activities of the biotech industry and it was most advanced in four segments, namely, targeted therapies, monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), radiotherapy and drug device combinations, according to study by Deloitte Consulting.

"These four segments saw the most innovations and they also had unprecedented growth and commercial impact in 2007," said the study released during the BIO International Convention 2008 in San Diego. "Targeted therapies with companion molecular diagnostics have experienced the most profound surge in realization, rising 50 percent in just three years."

Researchers at Deloitte have used the data collected over the industry's progress in the last six years to pick the winners. Stem cell therapy and RNA interference (RNAi) were the other two segments evaluated for the study that ranked the first four based on their innovation intensity.

"Given the volatility and the pace of scientific discovery in recent years, there is a need for a fact-based analysis to better understand which innovations are emerging as the most promising and, conversely, which technologies are losing ground," said Matthew Hudes, director of the study for Deloitte's healthcare and life sciences practice. He pointed out that targeted therapies are emerging as the first step towards personalized treatments.

Along with good diagnostic practices, these targeted therapies were reaching more patients. "However, there remains significant economic, reimbursement and regulatory challenges that could prevent valuable treatments from becoming available to people who need them," Hude wrote in the study.

Some highlights

  • Targeted therapies, accompanied by appropriate molecular diagnostic tools, have quickly progressed from idea to realization as a number of new products entered the market in the last few years. Discovery innovation remains active and development continues.

  • MAbs have achieved widespread clinical acceptance in the last three years after more than 20 years of variable progress. However, the volume of discovery innovations has dropped off as they move into the next stage of development. New structures and methods have resulted in a fresh set of innovations and some of these are already in the clinical trials stage.

  • Stem cells have achieved high level of discovery innovations over the past six years. However, realization and development have not yet occurred.

  • RNAi is the new technology in the area of therapeutic treatment. It has experienced innovations only in the last four years. There has been only modest development since then.

  • Drug-device combinations have achieved general acceptance over the past six years and this trend towards convergence will evolve into more realizable activities in the near future.

  • Radiotherapy is a relatively mature innovation and has experienced a recent burst of innovation over the past three years leading to rapid adoption of new applications. There were more than 80 percent increase in product approvals from 18 in 2005 to 33 in 2006.

"Life science companies should seek to develop products that respond to consumer desire for improved capabilities of self-monitor and manage their own care, and address their interest in alternative and personalized treatment options, as well as non-conventional delivery models," commented Terry Hisey, vice chairman and industry leader of Deloitte.

 

India soft sells biotech sector to the world

India is promoting innovation in the biotechnology sector by encouraging entrepreneurship and incentives to researchers in public laboratories and also in the private sector. "We are in the process of enacting a legislation on the lines of the USA's Bayh-Dole Act to provide incentives to innovators who create intellectual property," announced senior technocrat and joint secretary in the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), NS Samant, to a large gathering of participants at a special session on Indian biotechnology at the 16th BIO International Convention in San Diego, which was held from June 17-20, 2008.

Industry leaders like Hari Bhartia, vice chairman and MD of Jubilant Organosys, New Delhi and Dr Swati Piramal, director (strategic affairs ) of Nicholas Piramal Life Sciences, Mumbai, highlighted the efforts of the Indian biotech industry in creating new products and services.

"Indian companies are small and industrious and are building a strong industry slowly," Dr Piramal said. "Companies are now taking more risks. So far we were hampered by our culture which did not take kindly to failures."

India's biotechnology industry had a big presence at the BIO event this time. The India Pavillion was anchored by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and had companies like Dabur, Ranbaxy, Lucknow Biotech Park and Intas Pharmaceuticals which had prominent displays. The DBT had set up a big booth at India Pavillion. More than a dozen biotech companies made a pitch to get global attention at the colorfully decorated pavilion set up by the Association of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises(ABLE). Biocon, TCS, Avesthagen, Biovel, Lakshmikumaran and Associates, Xcelris Labs, Advinus Therapeutics, Manipal Acunova, KBITS, Bigtec, CSIR, were among the prominent players present in the ABLE pavilion.

The 2009 edition of Bangalore Bio event was launched formally during the event by Karnataka Vision Group Chairperson and Biocon chief, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. She also launched the inaugural edition of the BioSpectrum Life Sciences Resource Guide(LSRG) brought out in association with CII, ABLE and DBT.

Genome Valley, Hyderabad was present separately and received a lot of attention. The 2009 edition of the annual BioAsia event was launched during the event. Hyderabad-based Ocimum Biosolutions and Dr Reddy's too had set up big stalls in the exhibition.

There were three India-related sessions during the conference. One of the interesting session was on "The Right Spice: How Can Biotech Consider its Options for India?"

Simon Best, founder of London-based Ardana Biosciences, made a passionate pitch for Indian biotech, highlighting the advantages of working with Indian companies. Other prominent speakers in the session were Glen H Snyder of Deloitte, Samaresh Parida, COO of Avesthagen, Romi Singh, ED (global affairs), Amgen and Sidharth Kadiar of Invitrogen were the other prominent speakers.

The third session was "Alternate Energy Resources in India Through Biotechnology" which had speakers like Dr PK Seth, CEO of Lucknow Biotech Park, NS Samant, joint secretary, DBT, Shrikumar Suryanarayan, director-general of ABLE and KV Subarmanian, president and CEO of Reliance Life Sciences.

On the eve of the BIO convention, Burrill & Co organized a day-long special session on India's life science industry which was well attended. The CII too had arranged an "India Nite" on the eve of the event.

Bio 2008 San Diego New Page 3

Biofuels gaining ground globally despite controversies

espite controversies and stiff opposition from many countries and civic society groups who blame increased biofuel production for the rising shortage of foods, the biofuel industry is chugging along nicely and is charting out new growth paths, according to industry experts.

"The second generation biofuels which have overcome many of the lower yields of the first set of plant-based energy products are being manufactured in over 40 pilot plants with investments totaling $4 billion," revealed Nicholas Denis of McKinsey, a global consultancy.

He was delivering the keynote speech at a leadership summit on biofuels and cleantech, at a special function prior to the annual four-day Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) meeting, the largest gathering of the global biotech industry attended by over 1600 companies and 20,000 professionals from 61 countries.

Denis predicted that by the year 2015, almost 45 percent of the total fuel requirements of the transportation sector could be met by enthanol. Productivity was a major issue with the first generation biofuels. But even this was improving tremendously, he said quoting from a recent McKinsey study on the future of biofuels.

Critics had been slamming biofuels saying that the production process of these fuels were more energy intensive and hence did not lead to much changes in the emission of green house gases. However, new studies indicate that many recent varieties of genetically modified corn (maize) provided 40 percent more yields.

There are many such genetically modified fuels under development. A biofuel company Allelyx is now field-testing a high sucrose sugarcane variety modified genetically. Such a crop could increase the yield by 2 to 4 percent annually.

According to a recent study by BIO, ethanol production in the US has increased 300 percent since the year 2000 and the annual production exceeded 7 billion gallons in 2007.

The US government has set a goal to produce 60 million gallons (1 gallon equals 4.4 liters) of ethanol production and 30 percent displacement of petroleum by 2030.

Other studies estimate that nearly 1 billion dry tons of cellulosic biomass could be supplied by the agriculture sector in the US as crop residues and from fields dedicated to energy crops.

Almost all the experts, and many CEOs of biofuel companies, who participated in the discussions, indicated that the industry was not growing at the cost of producing more food for the people. They all preferred the use of non-food crops to extract biofuels.

 

India's Reliance Group to enter biofuel sector in a big way

The $35 billion Reliance Group, India's largest private company and a leading integrated energy industry leader, has announced ambitious plans to become a big player in the biofuels sector through its biotech arm, the Reliance Life Sciences.

The phenomenal increase in global crude oil prices had recently forced India's $ 35 billion Reliance Group, to get out of its retail petroleum business. But the company is making a major global play to become a producer of biofuels.

"We have initiated one of the world's most differentiated and unparalleled biofuel business model," revealed the President and CEO of Mumbai-based Reliance Life Sciences (RLS), KV Subramanian. RLS is the life sciences investments of the Reliance Group. "We will be making some major announcements related to this in the next year or so," he said while participating in a special India-related alternate fuels seminar at the ongoing Biotechnology industry meeting, BIO San Diego.

Reliance is betting big on the Jatropha plant to extract biodiesel and the company's researchers are working on transgenic technologies that could increase the oil content from Jatropha seeds.

RLS has started a 6,500-ton per year biodiesel pilot plant in the southern Indian city of Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh. The company has started three experimental farms, each of 300 to 400 acres, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The Reliance model will involve cultivation of biodiesel clusters with each cluster having 100,000 hectares of commercial cultivation of jatropha to feed a 100,000-ton per year biodiesel plant. The company plans to use its expertise in process technologies to ensure quick scale up when the project starts in full swing.

India is one of the largest consumers of energy in the world with the annual consumption hovering over 3.5 billion MTOE (million tons of energy equivalent). Despite the rising inflation rate of over 9 percent, India's economy is expected to grow at over 8 percent for the next few years.

This would push the energy requirements to increase by over 8 times by the year 2030. India currently consumes over 111 million tons of crude oil and the consumption has been growing at 5.6 percent annually. More than three-fourths of crude oil are imported. Highly subsidized prices have kept the consumption level unaltered despite rising global rates for petroleum products.

Subramanian said India has over 140 million hectares (MHA) of arable land, which was more than China and has another 30 million hectares (MHA) of wastelands. These wastelands could be effectively used to growth fuel-bearing crops like Jatropha and Pongamia without any diversion of food-growing lands.

Currently, jatropha plantations in rainfed areas provide a yield of 3.5 tons per hectare. Under irrigated conditions the yields were more than double and could even touch 10 tons per hectare. "Research has indicated that it was possible to more than double these yields," Mr Subramanian said.

The Indian government is now formulating a Biodiesel policy, which would be unveiled in the last quarter of 2008. India has also started pilot research projects to use other alternatives like algae and a national consortium involving four top institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, has been set up, said Dr Shrikumar Suryanarayan, chief of Bangalore-based biotech industry association, ABLE.

 

Australia plans to have $100 m life sciences supercomputer

The Australian government is planning to have a $100 million supercomputer-the world's largest- in the state of Victoria. Victoria Premier John Brumby announced at the inaugural day of the BIO 2008. The supercomputer is expected to make breakthroughs in life-threatening diseases.

Visiting the University of California's San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), Brumby announced the Victorian Government would invest $50 million in the supercomputer, complementing University of Melbourne and other funding of $50 million to establish the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative at the University's Parkville Precinct.

"The world's largest life sciences supercomputer, based in Melbourne, will accelerate ground-breaking research in key areas such as cancer, cardio-vascular and neurological disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, bone diseases, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases," Brumby said.

"The $100 million Supercomputer will focus on 'life sciences' utilizing leading-edge research practices, such as using large databases of genetic information, complex models of analysis of human systems and hundreds of 'teraflops' of computing power to increase speed to discovery."

Minister for Innovation, Gavin Jennings, said, "The $100 million supercomputer program will enable Victoria's medical researchers to predict the likely resistance path of viruses to existing drugs, enabling researchers to stay one step ahead in designing better treatments."

"Since 1999 our government has invested more than $2 billion in key research infrastructure, such as the Synchrotron, to foster new life-saving discoveries and make Victoria a world leader."

In Melbourne to announce the supercomputer initiative with the University of Melbourne, the Minister for Information and Communications Technology, Theo Theophanous, said researchers from the Parkville Precinct, Monash University and other Victorian research institutions will have access to the supercomputer. "The Brumby government is making strategic investments in key information and communications technology (ICT) to save lives in Victoria and beyond," Theophanous said.

The University of Melbourne will release initial expressions of interest for the peak computing facility in 2008, with major installations planned for 2009 and 2011.

 

Singapore showcases fast growing biomedical sciences to the world

The city-state of Singapore is emerging as one of the world's fastest growing biosciences cluster.

With an investment of over $2.1 billion, Singapore is now emerging as one of the fastest growing bioclusters in the world. The biocluster registered a 24 percent growth in R&D spending in the biosciences sector in 2006. The country spent over $760 million on R&D in this sector, according to the country's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

Making this announcement on the inaugural day of the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual meeting, BIO in San Diego, A* Star said Singapore's biomedical science sector inducted 12 percent more scientists in 2006. The country's scientist count in this sector has crossed the 2,000 mark.

Over 50 companies have set up their biomedical sciences research operations in Singapore. The country is emerging as a leading, world class R&D hub with its scientific and clinical infrastructure.

"Singapore's forward-looking environment and reliable execution allows companies to place strategic bets for the future. We have built-up core capabilities in industrial, human and intellectual capital and established the Biopolis as an icon for biomedical sciences research in Asia," said Yeoh Keat Chuan, executive director-biomedical sciences, Singapore Economic Development Board.

He added: "We are now fast building capabilities and infrastructure for translational and clinical research to facilitate drug discovery from bench to the bedside and back."

Some of the major expansions in the country include Pfizer's multi-therapeutic clinical research unit and Takeda's neuroscience research lab. A* Star said the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases has extended its study into malaria. Lilly has started research oncancer medicines in additions to its study here on metabolic diseases. In fact, it was revealed that the new Lilly-Singapore Center for Drug Discovery will house its first drug hunting teams in Asia. The center has over 150 scientists. And it focuses on stem cell biology and epigenetics research.

 

Malaysia to set up $136 m biotherapeutics facility

Malaysia will set up a $136 million integrated facility to commercialize biotherapeutics in the State of Malacca in the country.

An agreement to make this happen was signed between Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation, Melaka Biotech Holdings, Vanguard Creative Technologies, all from Malaysia and Indian company, Vivo Bio Tech Limited. The agreement was signed during the on-going BIO International Convention. The CEO of Malaysian Biotech Corporation, Iskander Mizal Mahmood, facilitated the agreement with the companies. Malacca's chief minister, Mohd Ali Mohd Rustam was also present.

Malaysia has set an ambitious target to enter the commercialization phase of the biotech sector between 2011 and 2015. The facilitation plan includes $2.7 billion investments in the sector by private companies and government.

The plan envisages building 25-strong biotech companies with revenues of $24.2 billion and gain a four percent share of the gross domestic product by 2015.

 

Sibal exhorts US industry to invest in India's biopharma R&D offering New Page 4

Over 350 execs and investors attend USICC summit

Sibal exhorts US industry to invest in India's biopharma R&D offering

The US-India BioPharma Summit 2008 organized by the USA-India Chamber of Commerce in Boston attracted over 350 senior bio, pharma, medical devices and healthcare professionals. Top 20 biopharma companies were represented by senior decision-makers working on discovery, clinical research and partnership initiatives. Notable among them were Dr William Chin, vice president of discovery research at Eli Lilly, Jim Mullen, CEO of Biogen Idec, GV Prasad, CEO of Dr Reddy's Labs, Venkat Jasti, CEO of Suven, Josh Boger, CEO, Vertex Pharma and chairman of BIO, Dr Mark Powell, senior vice president and worldwide head, pharma development, Bristol Myers Squibb, Jeff Elton, COO, Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research and Rod MacKenzie, senior vice president, worldwide research, Pfizer and Barbara Yanni, chief licensing officer, Merck & Co and Dianne Kikta, vice president, global clinical, Wyeth Research.

Kapil Sibal, minister of science and technology and earth sciences, releasing the McKinsey, USA-India Chamber of Commerce Position paper.

The over 40 leading and emerging companies from India participated. Minister of science and technology and earth sciences, Kapil Sibal, Dr Surinder Singh, DCGI and Debasish Panda, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare represented the Indian government.

In his keynote address, Sibal outlined the concept of an emerging intellectual property regime in India that would not only uphold the interests of indulging pharmaceutical companies. It will also match their investment on a 50:50 basis to built an environment to develop collaborative initiatives to mutual benefits in the field of agriculture, marine and health sciences. Sibal said the challenge was to develop highest quality drugs at the lowest cost. It is important to device different business models as the current models do not work.

Sibal emphasized on novel discovery efforts to meet the need of locals that would pave the road for international success, citing "Nano car" as the prototypical example for his three point mantra-accessibility, affordability and world class quality. He described the ideology of scientific achievement across different nations as a symbiotic ecosystem and not delimited by geographical boundaries. With an open invitation to US companies to shed inhibitions and a promise to offer a congenial fertile environment encouraging public-private partnership, Sibal effectively conveyed the idea of stimulating the minds of many corporate heads.

The Drug Controller General of India, Dr Surinder Singh talked about implementation of an advanced "e governance drug regulatory system in India". This electronic system, unique of its kind, is currently being developed with support from the Indian IT sector to suit the Indian context, following closer understanding of the functioning of its equivalent counterparts in the world - WHO, Health Canada and FDA. This digitalized and interactive portal is being seen as a revolutionary change to centralize the regulatory system and running clinical trials in India ensuring transparency and accountability at all levels.

Dr Singh emphasized on an inbuilt feature for spontaneous and random check by health inspectors to ensure the unmet need for quality and ethical standards that would be central to the system.

(From left): Ajay Dhankhar, partner, McKinsey & Company, Dr Peter Muller, executive vice president and CSO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Dr Rashmi Barbhaiya, CEO, Advinus Therapeutics, Barbara Yanni, vice president and chief licensing officer, Merck & Co, Dr William Chin, vice president, discovery research, Eli Lilly & Company, Venkat Jasti, vice chairman and CEO, Suven Life Sciences, participating in the discussion on drug discovery and collaborative research.

On being questioned about the competence of panel deciding the fate of a drug, Dr Singh assured of an impartial and independent panels integrating diverse expertise will be incorporated including academia, medicine, industry and government. Besides, answering to other questions, Dr Singh was optimistic about its success that is instrumental to eventually convince investment even from the private sector. The central philosophy is aimed at cutting short of delay for the entry of drugs through a centralized single register.

A Position Paper prepared by McKinsey & Company for the USA-India Chamber of Commerce was officially released by Kapil Sibal. Titled 'Thought Starters to Spur US-India BioPharma Collaboration', the report suggested 10 ideas to take the US-India life sciences and healthcare business to the next level.

During a lively discussion on 'Funding innovation and Cross Border M&A Trends', Frederick Frank, vice chairman of Lehman Brothers, commented, "Most pharma companies need to introduce more than three new products a year to maintain growth. Given current pipeline and associated costs, there is no chance of this happening." Frank added, "Biotech companies are good in research whereas pharma companies are good in manufacturing and marketing."

During discussions on the 'Drug Discovery and Collaborative Research', Dr Chin of Eli Lilly emphasized that "Partners need to understand each other, share risk and rewards". Dr Chin emphasized that winners will be those who can handle all the data, and that for India this is "a natural thing to capture and win on."

Barbara Yanni, chief licensing officer, Merck & Co. talked about their deals with Ranbaxy, Nicholas Piramal and Advinus. Merck's focus on India is "better than most" with respect to accessing innovation, forming research collaborations making bona fide chemical entities with Indian "partners," not "contractors". Dr Peter Muller of Vertex Pharma commented, "Collaborative research is not outsourcing but in sourcing of bright minds to solve the most complex problems."

Venkat Jasti CEO of Suven and chairman, Pharmexcil, urged the Indian government to set up specific panels to expedite the application approval process. He said academic institutions should speed up training of students in chemistry and biology as "disease is complex".

 

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