• 9 January 2008
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Ocimum Biosolutions acquires Gene Logic's genomics division

Hyderabad-based Ocimum Biosolutions, a life sciences research and development-enabling company, delivering end-to-end genomic products and services, has announced that it has raised capital from Kubera Cross Border Fund (KUBC) for an equity investment of up to $17 million (including the pro rata investment by affiliates of Kubera Partners, LLC, the Investment Manager of KUBC). Ocimum Biosolutions also announced that it has successfully closed the acquisition of the genomics division of Gene Logic and will retain the Gene Logic name and continue to service customers from Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Commenting on the new partnership, Anuradha Acharya, CEO of Ocimum, said, "We were looking for a partner that apart from providing growth capital and acquisition financing has a similar footprint as ours and can understand our business and our global customer service and delivery model. Kubera's track record and their ability to add value in a cross-border sense uniquely qualifies them to help with businesses such as ours." She added, "With the acquisition of Gene Logic's Genomics business, we now offer the largest portfolio of integrated genomic solutions, which further strengthens our unique positioning in this space. We aim to be the number one genomics outsourcing company in the world. We will leverage our global positioning and Gene Logic's branding and scientific leadership in toxicogenomics, pharmacogenomics and clinical genomics to become a partner of choice for our customers." Ramanan Raghavendran, managing partner at Kubera Partners, LLC said, "We believe genomics outsourcing is at the cusp of significant growth, given the demands on the drug discovery function for labs around the world. Ocimum is well positioned to capture this opportunity because of its leadership in genomics, deep technology knowledge and experience, global delivery capability and above all its world-class scientific talent and management team."

Shiraz Bugwadia, director at o3 Capital Advisors, added, "Ocimum, with this Series B investment from Kubera Partners is well on path to become a $100 million company by 2011 and a world leader in genomics outsourcing."


"No programs to promote cultivation of Bt cotton in India"

"The government of India is not implementing any programs to promote cultivation of Bt cotton in the country," said Kanti Lal Bhuria, minister of state for agriculture, government of India.

Bhuria said, "Bt cotton is the only genetically modified crop released for commercial cultivation in India by Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the ministry of environment and forest. Bt cotton seed of 167 hybrids is produced and marked by 25 private seed companies at prices ranging from Rs 750-900 ($19.01- 22.82) per packet of 450 gms. The prices have been fixed by the seed industry in consultation with states."

Cultivation of Bt cotton has increased from 29,073 hectare in 2002 to 3.37 million hectare in 2006. In all, farmers from nine states are cultivating Bt cotton in India. Maharashtra is leading the list with 1.75 million hectares followed by Andhra Pradesh (6,80,000 hectares), Gujarat (4,00,000 hectares), Madhya Pradesh (3,80,000 hectares) and Punjab (1,60,000 hectares). Production of cotton has increased from 86.24 lakh bales of 170 kg each in 2002 to 226.96 lakh bales in 2006.


Varda Biotech signs MoU with ICRISAT

(From L to R) Vinod M Bomman, director, Varda Biotech, Vijay Ambatti, director, Varda Biotech, Dr Dyno Keatinge, deputy director general, research, ICRISAT,
Dr Farid Waliyar, managing director, ASP, ICRISAT, AR Ilyas, COO, ASP, ICRISAT.

Varda Biotech, a Mumbai-based biotechnology company, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

The MoU envisages collaboration on development of kits which detect naturally occurring and potentially deadly poison (Aflatoxin) that infects their crops via a common fungus that makes them unfit for consumption or export. A fungus that can easily grow on many crops including common food crops like maize, groundnut, sorghum, and cassava produces Aflatoxin. It can infect them both in the field and after harvest, while they are being stored in grain bins and elevators. Many countries reject agriculture imports exceeding certain levels of Aflatoxin, costing farmers millions of dollars each year in lost sales. Meanwhile, people who inadvertently consume a large quantity of the contaminated food can get very sick, as the toxin can cause potentially fatal problems in the liver and intestines.

"The collaboration with ICRISAT will help Varda to explore new avenues and opportunities in the area of biotechnology in particular agri and food safety areas. This enables to reach out to bigger and needy section of the society," said Vinod M Bomman, director, strategy and business planning at Varda Biotech.

"This association will enable to work closely in tandem with each other, there by propagating benefits in larger scale," said AR Ilyas, COO, Agri-Science Park at ICRISAT.

The collaboration would bring together the expertise of the two institutions to deploy technology, research and development and skillful manpower for delivering the products for affordable cost, to the needy farmers and also for food industry. The product would be launched in to the market, during January-February of year 2008, said Vijay Ambatti, director, business development, Varda Biotech.


Clinsys, ITEC enter into alliance

Clinsys Clinical Research, a Jubilant Organosys company and ITEC Services, announced that they have entered into a strategic alliance. The alliance will enable Clinsys to extend its global clinical operations and consulting services in Europe and North Africa, while providing ITEC increased opportunities resulting from alignment with Clinsys' infrastructure and network of global resources in the US, India and Western Europe.

Under the agreement, Clinsys and ITEC will mutually conduct training with each other's respective operational staff to ensure stringent adherence to standards and guidelines and promote quality deliverables for sponsors.


Dabur OncQuest launches novel testing package for blood cancer patients

Dabur OncQuest, which is into oncology medical testing, has announced its first ever project with an aim to offer cost-effective monitoring of therapy for select patients of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). Dabur OncQuest will perform the BCR/abl translocation quantitative tests by Q PCR technique. A third party administrator identifies the patients through the referring clinicians.

In the current scenario, a patient needs to undergo a test available at varying costs of Rs. 6,000, Rs 3,500 or Rs 2,000 depending on the prescribed technology. These tests are to be done in four regular intervals. Under this new project, the customers will get the premium testing technique which is available at Rs 6,000 per test. Moreover, two among the required four tests will be free. The tests thus, will now cost half their actual cost i.e. the package which was earlier available for Rs 24,000 (test conducted four times) will now be available for Rs 10,200 only. To top it all, Dabur OncQuest will provide free pick and drop facility to its clinics across its centers at 42 cities all over the country.

CML Quest (MRD) i.e. BCR/abl Q PCR is the test indicated to measure the drug response in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). The test is an accurate indicator of how the patient is responding to the treatment & indicates the future course of treatment modalities.

Announcing the availability of this test, Aditya Burman, GM, Dabur Pharma says, "OncQuest has always concentrated on providing the latest and most pioneering technologies for oncology testing in India. We have hitherto set benchmarks for cancer diagnostics using our unique technologies. We are delighted to extend our services for the first time to reach our end-users, benefiting them with our advanced economical packages, filling a gap in diagnosis and prognosis of CML world-wide. With this, OncQuest lives up to its mission of introducing scientifically advanced cost effective molecular diagnostic algorithm."

Adding to it, Vivek Trikha, head, Dabur Diagnostics. said, "OncQuest continues the application of real time technologies to perform sensitive tests. Roll out of CML Quest (MRD) under this new package is in line with OncQuest's mission to continuously evolve and develop cost effective testing technologies. The patients under our pilot project have appreciated our effort to provide them the best of the services at the most affordable price."


Jubilant in partnership with Forest Laboratories

Jubilant Biosys, a subsidiary of Jubilant Organosys, a custom research and manufacturing services (CRAMS) and drug discovery and development services company, and Forest Laboratories Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Forest Laboratories, announced that the companies have entered into a collaboration agreement to discover small molecule drug candidates for a novel metabolic disorders target.

Jubilant Biosys will conduct the drug discovery work and Forest will have responsibility for the subsequent pre-clinical and clinical development. Forest will own the drugs discovered under the collaboration with unencumbered worldwide commercialization rights. Under the terms of the collaboration, Forest will pay Jubilant undisclosed amounts towards research funding, development and commercialization milestones.

Commenting on the development, Shyam S Bhartia, CMD and Hari S Bhartia, co-chairman and managing director of Jubilant Organosys, said: "We are very pleased to partner with Forest Laboratories, an important pharmaceutical company. This collaboration leverages the innovation capabilities of Jubilant Biosys in pharmaceutical discovery and preclinical development, as well as combining these strengths with Forest Laboratories, a proven successful development and commercialization company, to deliver new products with cost effective efficiency that will help patients around the world."

Dr Ivan Gergel, senior vice president of scientific affairs and president of the Forest Research Institute sharing his thoughts on the development added: "This partnership is part of Forest Laboratories' continued efforts in India to access and develop robust partnerships to grow our discovery pipeline and access innovation across the globe. We are very pleased with Jubilant's quality of people, capabilities and infrastructure for pharmaceutical discovery".


India good place for clinical research, says report

India is emerging as the most potential destination for clinical trials for international drug makers, says the research report "Booming Clinical Trials Market in India" by a leading research firm RNCOS. The report has evaluated the factors working in favor of India.

According to the report, Asia-Pacific region is fast emerging as the most promising place for conducting clinical trials, and in this region, China and India are most likely to lead. Low cost and better access to research-related materials are considered as China's advantage over India, at the same time China has the disadvantage that their pharma industry is based on generics and Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) that lacks innovation. Conversely, India has flourishing pharma companies formulating their own small and large molecule therapies.

RNCOS research has looked for the reasons as to why, despite being a beginner in the field, India is being preferred by international drug manufacturers for carrying out clinical trails. It has traced the cost of conducting clinical trails at global level in the past and has methodically done a cost (average) and time analysis of conducting various phases of clinical trials in India with respect to countries like the US, UK, and Germany.

The study also talks about the initiatives being taken by the Indian government to support the clinical trials market.

Clinical trial is the research study by pharmaceutical firms that is done as part of their drug discovery process to find out more efficient treatments for patients with specific disease.


BioNews New Page 2

MIT, Indian researchers cure mouse of autism

Researchers from Bangalore's National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have cured key symptoms of mental retardation and autism in mice. By altering a single gene, they have significantly alleviated a wide range of abnormalities due to fragile X syndrome (FXS).

The breakthrough is important as it helps researchers develop drugs to cure autism faster. FXS is the most common inherited cause of mental retardation and autism and scientists created a mouse in lab that had the same symptoms as humans.

The FXS symptoms include mental retardation, epilepsy, and abnormal body growth and there is no known treatment or therapy available to cure this disorder. The MIT researchers corrected FXS in mice modeling the disease. "These findings have major therapeutic implications for fragile X syndrome and autism," said study lead author Mark F. Bear, director of the Picower Institute and Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT. The FXS patients have mutations in the X chromosome's FMR1 gene, which encodes the fragile X mental retardation protein, FMRP. The MIT study found that FMRP and metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR5) are at opposite ends of a kind of molecular seesaw. They keep each other in check, and without FMRP, mGluR5 signals run rampant. In FXS individuals, spines are more numerous, longer and more spindly than they should be. Thin spines tend to form weak connections.

The research team found that a 50 percent reduction in mGluR5 fixed multiple defects in the fragile X mice. In addition to correcting dendritic spines, reduced mGluR5 improved altered brain development and memory, restored normal body growth, and reduced seizures-many of the symptoms experienced by humans with FXS.

The work also indicates that a certain class of drugs could have the same effect. These drugs are not yet approved by the FDA, but will soon be entering into human clinical trials.


ClinTec International plans significant expansion of its Indian operations

ClinTec International, the UK based Contract Research Organization (CRO), is all set to foray into drug development and has announced plans to expand its Indian outfit in a major way. Located at Bangalore, the Indian arm of Clintec International will be developed into an important global center and serve as Asia's hub for its international operations.

Sharing details of the expansion plans in India, Dr Rabinder Buttar, president and founder, ClinTec International, said, "ClinTec International is focusing on India in a very big way and aims to bring many global projects to India. We plan to increase the head count in India from the existing 25 to about 100 employees in the near future. ClinTec India contributes about 25-30 percent of Clintec International's global revenues."

"The Bangalore arm of ClinTec will support and drive the work at ClinTec International's newly opened global clinical research Center of Excellence in Munich, Germany. We are proud to know that ClinTec International is perceived as the number one CRO by market analysts when it comes to advising the pharmaceutical industry," Buttar said.


Merck & Co. announces pact with HCL Technologies

HCL Technologies, a leading global IT services company, announced a multi-year, multi-service agreement with Merck & Co. Under the terms of the new deal, HCL will provide strategic support to Merck's key IT initiatives.

"Merck has embarked on a journey to leverage global delivery services to meet its business imperatives. We have chosen HCL as a strategic partner on this journey for its depth of technology and domain experience, coupled with its flexibility to engage and a commitment to deliver," stated Richard Branton, vice president, Merck Global Technology Services.


Veeda CR organizes workshop on Phase I clinical trials

Veeda CR, a Clinical Research Organization (CRO), organized a two-day workshop on the mechanisms of Phase I clinical trials of the CRO industry. The two-day event took place in Veeda's premises in Ahmedabad on December 3-4, 2007. This was the first time such an event has taken place in India.

The faculty of the workshop consisted predominantly of Veeda staff members including Dr Maurice Cross, Dr Richard Taylor, Dr Sanjay Sharma, John Allison and Dr Jinesh Shah. Veeda is strategically partnering with Advinus for pre-clinical services and Dr Vikram Ramanathan and Dr Nimish Vachharajani of Advinus also presented at the workshop.

Some of the broad areas that were discussed during the course of the workshop were preparation for clinical trials in the EU and US market, cardiovascular toxicity studies and evaluation of an anti-diabetic drug.


BAAP Diagnostics receives CAP accreditation

BAAP Diagnostics laboratory has been awarded an accreditation by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). The diagnostic laboratory is a part of BA Research India, a leading CRO, headquartered in Ahmedabad and specializing in conducting clinical phase and analyzing samples for bioequivalence and bioavailability studies. The studies conducted by BA Research have been approved by USFDA and AFSSAPS.

A CAP audited diagnostic laboratory, is often an advantage as the facility is already benchmarked to be of globally approved standards and thereby fastens the process of approvals from global regulatory bodies. It also enables the CRO to conduct tests in a protected environment, making its services more cohesive.

The College of American Pathologists (CAP) is a medical society serving nearly 16,000 physicians members and the laboratory community worldwide.


IFAD supports biofuels project led by ICRISAT

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) of the United Nations has committed $1.5 million funding for a three-year biofuels research-for-development project led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

IFAD is the first among the development investors supporting international agricultural research institutes under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) that has committed support for a biofuels project. The project will facilitate farmers and entrepreneurs to utilize sweet sorghum stalks and cassava roots in producing ethanol, and seeds of jatropha in producing bio-diesel.

The Inter-Center project, involving ICRISAT, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the appropriate national agricultural research centers, will involve popularization of the cultivation of sweet sorghum in India, the Philippines, China and Mali; cassava in Vietnam and Colombia; and jatropha in India and Mali. Research results on producing ethanol from the juice of stalks of sweet sorghum and roots of cassava, and bio-diesel from the seeds of jatropha are quite encouraging.

According to Dr William Dar, director general of ICRISAT, the project will support the farmers of the drylands with the latest research and research products and link them with the biofuel market. Thus they will be able to improve their incomes and livelihoods from the biofuel revolution. He thanked IFAD for committing support to this unique project that linked multiple crops and institutions across multiple continents.

The project facilitates entrepreneurs to utilize sweet sorghum stalks and cassava roots in producing ethanol, and seeds of jatropha in producing bio-diesel. The above program will be implemented by sensitizing farmers, research partners and other stakeholders in the production and supply chain about biofuel production. This will enable them to work together and make use of project's research outputs.


BioServe launches ControlMATCH for biomarker validation

BioServe, a leader in the processing, development, and validation of diagnostic tests for the practice of personalized, predictive and preventive medicine, has introduced ControlMATCH, a new line of fully annotated control DNA and serum samples designed to help biomedical researchers efficiently validate new biomarkers and early stage clinical trial drug candidates. Leveraging BioServe's global repository of 600,000 human biological samples, ControlMATCH allows researchers to select and match control samples to the specific needs of their own DNA and/or serum-based studies.

ControlMATCH DNA and serum controls will initially cover type II diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, and extend to other disease states in early 2008.


Sanofi-aventis opens center in India

Sanofi-aventis, a leading global pharmaceutical company, has opened its first Asian pharmaceutical development center in Goa.

Set up at an approximate cost of Rs 100 crores (US $25.54 million) the Goa Development Centre (GDC) represents the group's single largest investment in India to date and is testament to sanofi-aventis' strategy to expand its presence and accelerate growth both in India and in Asia.

As sanofi-aventis' first Asian hub for analytical and pharmaceutical formulation development, the 2,600-sqm Goa Development Centre (GDC) will have the capacity to develop up to 12 pharmaceutical compounds per year.

Olivier Charmeil, senior vice president, Asia Pacific said, "The Goa development center will serve to expand sanofi-aventis' capacity to develop and produce medicines adapted to local market needs in an efficient and cost-effective manner."


Suven obtains product patent

Suven Life Sciences has been granted its first product patent in the US. The granted claims of the patent include the class of selective Serotonin receptor affinity compounds discovered by Suven and being developed as therapeutic agents. The compounds are useful in the treatment of neuro-degenarative disorders like Alzheimer's, Parkinson, Schizophrenia and Huntington's.

Suven has so far filed 29 product patent applications through PCT covering more than 145 countries, out of which five product patents are granted in various countries. There are several other patent applications from Suven Discovery Research in the pipeline that have completed the administrative and technical diligence from the patent offices from major countries and would be granted shortly.

Suven has filed its first Investigational New Drug (IND) application with DCGI to conduct the clinical Phase-I study on its developmental candidate SUVN-502 and several other candidates are in discovery pipeline undergoing GLP pre-clinical studies.

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