• 20 October 2006
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Biocon launches new cancer drug

Biocon launches new cancer drug

Biocon Ltd recently launched BIOMAb-EGFR, a therapeutic monoclonal antibody-based drug designed to treat solid tumors of epithelial origin, as found in the head and neck region.

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan unveiled Biocon's first proprietary product.

"I am told there are three million cases of cancer detected each year in our country; so whatever it takes to prevent it is good. Cancer can happen to the best of us,"' he said. "I'm here in my personal capacity to pay homage to my parents who were victims to cancer," he added.

The new drug will also be launched in neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.

BIOMAb-EGFR is engineered to target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a type of protein found on the surface of both healthy and cancer cells, an over-expression of which leads to the uncontrolled and malignant growth of cells leading to cancer.

"This drug is the first of its kind to be clinically tested in India and is the first anti-EGFR humanized monoclonal antibody for cancer to be made available anywhere in the world," said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon Ltd. "BIOMAb-EGFR will be priced 40 percent lower than the existing drugs which are now manufactured by the multinational drug companies," she added.


Syngene ties up with Swedish firm to develop virulence blockers

Syngene International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Biocon Ltd, and Innate Pharmaceuticals AB, Umea, Sweden, have concluded a cooperation agreement to jointly develop, manufacture and market virulence blockers to counteract bacterial diarrhoeal disease. Virulence blockers are a new class of drugs that could become an alternative to antibiotics.

Clinical studies of therapeutic effect will be conducted over the next three years and a candidate drug will be developed to the stage of a limited Phase II study in patients with diarrhoeal disease. Once therapeutic effect is demonstrated, Syngene will carry out further clinical studies enabling the virulence blocker to be registered as a drug for the treatment of bacterial diarrhoeal disease. Innate Pharmaceuticals will have European marketing rights, while Syngene will have rights to other markets of the world. Each company will receive royalties on the sales conducted by the other.

Innate Pharmaceuticals and Syngene have been working together in several projects over the past three years. "The new agreement is testimony that our work together has progressed very well and further reiterates our commitment to new research initiatives together," said Sune Rosell, CEO of Innate Pharmaceuticals.

Dr Goutam Das, COO, Syngene International, said, "We are delighted to announce this long term research cooperation with Innate Pharmaceuticals. Together we are committed to developing virulence blockers as alternatives and complements to antibiotics. This effort is also towards a new class of targets hitherto not exploited."


Sibal unveils global nano-center in Bangalore

The government has set up an international nano-center for material sciences at the Bangalore-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR).

The center will be taken forward by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), which is looking at greater collaboration with JNCASR, said Kapil Sibal, the Union Minister for science and technology and earth sciences.

Unveiling the country's first nano-lab at the JNCASR, he said, "The nano-lab will focus on energy, India's prime requirement, especially super-capacitors and nano-structures for sensors and photo-voltaic cells."

The government, Sibal said, is contemplating public- private partnerships in research on photo-voltaic cells.

The ministry of science and technology has sought a four-fold increase in the five-year plan allocation to promote basic sciences and invest heavily in knowledge-based research that will prepare the base for a higher economic growth curve.

"As against Rs 250 billion allotted during the 10th Plan (2002-2007), we have submitted proposals to the Planning Commission to allocate Rs 1,000 billion in the 11th Plan (2007-12) for taking up S&T to the next frontier by reviving interest in basic sciences and attracting the best minds to build scientific knowledge," Kapil Sibal said.

"In the 21st century, it is the power of knowledge, especially in S&T, that will determine the strength of a nation. With a young population of 5 47 million (below 25 years), we have the resources to build a vast human capital to serve the country and outsource it for other countries with ageing population," he said.

"But the reality is that out of the 1.1 billion people, there are only 10 million science graduates, accounting for a mere one percent of the population. Unless we empower the rest with education, S&T and allied skills, the country will not be able to build the human capital required to sustain an 8-10 percent GDP growth annually," Sibal said.

The ministry has proposed to offer innovative scholarships for one million students in the 10-17 years age group for pursuing science as a subject for further studies. "A proposal to grant a scholarship of Rs 5,000 per annum for every student in the middle and higher secondary school has been submitted to the finance ministry for budgetary allocation from the next fiscal (2007-08)," he said.

T Ramaswami, DST secretary, said the ministry also proposed to offer a 15-year assurance scheme to students passing Class 12 for pursuing higher studies in science. "As part of the novel scheme, we propose to offer the post of assistant professor at the college or university level, with Rs 1 million financial assistance to undertake research projects," he said.


Wockhardt signs MoU with MIDC to set up SEZ

Wockhardt has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) to establish a special economic zone (SEZ) in Aurangabad, wherein Wockhardt will set up a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing and research facility.

Rajiv Jalota, CEO, MIDC and Huzaifa Khorakiwala, executive director, Wockhardt, signed the MoU in the presence of Vilasrao Deshmukh, chief minister of Maharashtra.

The SEZ will be spread over 107 hectares of land leased by MIDC at Shendra. The SEZ will house manufacturing facilities for active pharmaceutical ingredients, biopharmaceuticals, research and development centre, effluent treatment plant, a corporate office, warehouse and a residential and recreational complex. It will provide employment to an estimated 2,000 people.

Lauding the Maharashtra government for its support and fast clearance of the first major pharmaceutical and biotechnology SEZ in the state, Habil Khorakiwala, chairman, Wockhardt, said, " This SEZ will provide the base for a new thrust in international markets that will drive Wockhardt's growth in the coming years. It will make Aurangabad a major hub for pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries."

Wockhardt currently has 10 manufacturing facilities, including one in the UK, most of them certified by international regulatory bodies like the US FDA. The proposed plants at the SEZ will also be built for international regulatory compliance.

Wockhardt was one of the earliest companies to set up a manufacturing facility in Aurangabad in 1979. President APJ Abdul Kalam inaugurated the Wockhardt Biotech Park in Aurangabad in 2004. Further investment in biotechnology at the proposed SEZ will accelerate Wockhardt's expanding global reach.


Serum makes equity investment in Akorn

Serum Institute of India Ltd (SIIL) is looking for inorganic growth. After picking up 14 percent stake in Lipoxen, a UK-based biopharma company, it has now reached an agreement with US-based Akorn for up to one million shares of Akorn's common stock at a share price equal to $3.56, the closing price on September 7, 2006. SIIL has advanced monies for this transaction to Akorn on September 8, 2006.

Akorn will take Dr Subash Kapre, executive director, SIIL, in its Board of Directors. The final issuance of shares is subject to completion of documentation and customary closing conditions, according to the release.

In October 2004, Akorn and Serum entered into an exclusive drug development and distribution agreement for oncology and other injectable products. Since that time Serum has begun constructing a dedicated manufacturing facility in Pune to support these efforts and Akorn expects regulatory filings to commence in 2007.

Dr Cyrus S Poonawalla, CMD, Serum Institute, said, "We are excited with this investment opportunity, as it gives both our organizations a larger canvas to develop and market a number of products for the American markets."

Sharing his thoughts Arthur S Przybyl, president and CEO of Akorn said, "This equity investment by Serum serves to further solidify our long term strategic partnership. Both companies intend to further expand our business relationship in the near term."

BioNews MSD to launch pneumococcal vaccine next year

MSD to launch pneumococcal vaccine next year

MSD Pharmaceuticals (India), a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck & Co., will launch pneumococcal vaccine next year in India. The vaccine is indicated for those groups of individuals at increased risk of becoming extremely ill with pneumonia.

Murali Parthasarathy, director, marketing, MSD India, said, "Clinical trials are going on. We expect things to be in place by mid next year."

Besides this, MSD India had announced a partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research in December last to study its new cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil in India.

Leonard Tauro, managing director, MSD India, informed that Merck had received USFDA approval for Gardasil, the only vaccine available in the US for the prevention of HPV types 16 and 18 related cervical cancer, for use in girls and women in the age group of nine to 26 years. Gardasil is a ready-to-use, three dose, intra muscular vaccine.

Leonard Tauro further said, "The increasing demand for healthcare products and India's highly skilled workforce and favorable business environment ensures MSD's investment in India. This environment will support us to double our headcounts in India in the next 12 months from the present strength of 50 that includes 30 in sales and 20 in research and support. "

"MSD-India is establishing an Indian medical and clinical research division which will co-ordinate research projects with clinical investigators in India's leading hospitals and universities. Clinical investigation will further our understanding of how our products can help diverse patient populations, either on their own or combined with other medicines," he added.

MSD India, which commenced its operation in January 2005, intends to invest in India in connection with capitalization and funding of the proposed subsidiary. Investments in sales, marketing and research operations in Delhi would be done in phased manner. Recently it launched Cancidas IV, a drug for the treatment of fungal infections, its third product in India. Its other two products available in the country include Zienam (a beta-lactam anti-biotic) and Aggrastat (a cardiovascular drug).


FICCI moots 10-year tax holiday for Jatropha farming

The FICCI Core Group on Biofuels has made wide-ranging recommendations to boost large-scale corporate Jatropha plantations for the production of biodiesel and reduce India's massive crude import bill.

The FICCI Core Group, chaired by PM Sinha, chairman, Bata India and chairman, FICCI Agriculture Committee, in its presentation to the Ministry of Agriculture has suggested that amongst other steps, the government should grant a 10-year exemption of excise and customs duties as well as all Central and State levies on biodiesel or Jatropha oil. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for Jatropha cultivation and production of biodiesel needs encouragement. FICCI further suggests dovetailing of Jatropha cultivation with National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) Scheme.

The Group felt that if the plantations are brought under the reforestation projects under the clean development mechanisms, there is potential for farmers and low-income communities to gain early returns from the carbon mitigation in tree biomass. The income from carbon trading would amount to an average of Rs 2,800/ha from the fifth year of planting. The income from trading the carbon credits as well from the Jatropha seeds makes this highly remunerative for the wasteland tracks in India.

Among other major recommendations made by FICCI Core Group include single window clearance for setting up plants; the upper ceiling of subsidy by National Oilseeds & Vegetable Oils Development Board (NOVOD), which is Rs 6.50 lakh, be removed to encourage farmers and corporates; simplify procedures for availing credit/loans and National Bio Fuel Policy to be approved by the Government of India.


NIO to host 7th APMBC meet in Cochin

With a view to provide a forum for marine biologists, researchers, scientists and the public in the Asia-Pacific region, the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), one of the constituent laboratories of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), is organizing the 7th Asia Pacific Society for Marine Biotechnology (APMBC). This conference is being held for the first time in India in Cochin on November 2-5, 2006.

The APMBC has successfully organized six conferences in different countries across the Asia-Pacific region-Japan (2), Thailand, Philippines, Hawaii, and China. Since the first APMBC was in Japan (1995), successive conferences were held in Thailand (1997), Philippines (1999), Hawaii (2002), Japan (2003) and China (2004).

Dr Shanta Achuthankutty, organizing secretary, 7th APMBC, said, "This international conference provides a fruitful platform for interesting discussion, sharing of new ideas, knowledge and transfer of new technologies, result in establishment of new collaborations. It will highlight new developments and opportunities in environmental and biomedical applications of marine biotechnology, and also in identifying factors that are impeding commercial exploitation of these products as countries like Japan, China, and Korea are participating. And they have advanced considerable in field of marine biotechnology."

Issues related to APMBC policies, IPR, international collaboration and capacity building, aquaculture and mariculture, bioactive compounds, peptides and proteins, biofouling, biomineralization and biomaterials, marine biodiversity and bioinformatics, marine microbial ecology, marine pathogens and toxins, marine protozoan and plant biotechnology, microbial interactions and unique processes, molecular biology, genomics, proteomics and nanobiotechnology are expected to get the attention of the participants.


Suven, Lilly ink drug discovery pact

Suven Life Sciences has signed an agreement with Eli Lilly and Company to collaborate on the pre-clinical research of molecules in the therapeutic area of central nervous system disorders (CNS).

Suven will receive payments from Lilly and potentially downstream payments if the identified candidates are selected by Lilly for further pre-clinical research and development, according to an official release.

"This effort is a collaboration between Suven and Lilly, with scientists from both parties working together in a team, with the goal of identifying potent, oral compounds that selectively modulate the specified G-Protein Coupled Receptor for the target CNS disease," said Dr Ramakrishna Nirogi, vice president, drug discovery, Suven Life Sciences.

Sharing his views on the collaboration, Venkat Jasti, vice chairman and CEO of Suven, said, "This is our first true research collaboration with a global pharmaceutical company, thereby helping us realize the next step of our strategic vision."

Suven's decade-old business model has expanded from contract research and manufacturing services (CRAMS) to drug discovery and development support services (DDDSS) to now collaborative research (CRP).


Erbitux gets DCGI nod

Merck Specialities has announced that it has received approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for Erbitux, the company's first-in-class, gold standard new targeted cancer therapy drug for the treatment of patients with locally-advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) i.e. cancer that has not yet spread to other parts of the body. Erbitux is the first and only monoclonal antibody to be approved for the treatment of head & neck cancer by the US FDA and the EMEA. The approval comes close on the heels of the successful launch of Erbitux in India in August 2006 for the treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC).


Ocimum Biosolutions selected Red Herring 100 Asia Winner

Hyderabad-based Ocimum Biosolutions has been selected as a Red Herring 100 Asia Winner for 2006. The editorial board of Red Herring, which received about 600 submissions from companies throughout Asia, selected Ocimum as one Asia's hottest technology start-ups after a stringent application review process of evaluating business models, analyzing profitability forecasts, assessing management teams and examining technology of the contending companies. Red Herring Asia covers markets such as Japan, South Korea, China, India, Singapore and Australia.

"Red Herring is a very reputed magazine and we are proud to be part of this list of 100 technology start-ups in Asia. This award gives a boost to our culture of innovation and we will continue bringing innovative solutions to the life sciences industry," said Anuradha Acharya, CEO, Ocimum Biosolutions.

Ocimum's innovative products have already won laurels from various prestigious institutions. Ocimum emerged as the winner of NASSCOM IT Innovation in India 2005 Award, Deloitte Technology Fast 50 India 2005 Program and also the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific 2005 Program.


Bioinformatics software Geno-Cluster launched

Kapil Sibal, the union minister for science and technology and earth sciences has launched Geno-Cluster, a bioinformatics software developed jointly by the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and Jalaja Technologies under the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) program.

The Geno-Cluster is a suite of high-end software applications based on concepts, which are fundamental to comparative genomics. The tools primarily aim to predict genes, protein functionality and virulence factors and work in tandem to provide a platform conducive to cutting edge research in the in-silico design of novel drug molecules and vaccines. The highly sophisticated Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) are employed to identify genes/non genes/virulent factors. The high accuracy of the results emphasizes the success of the machine learning and statistical biology concepts. The software package includes a number of stand-alone software tools namely, Gene 'D'cfer, Proteome calkulator and Seapath as well as PL-HoSTFA developed by IGIB independently.

Speaking on the occasion, Kapil Sibal said that NMITLI is the largest public-private-partnership R&D initiative of the government. In a short span of time, the program has several significant achievements to its credit. These include the TB molecule, herbal formulations for Psoriasis, low cost computer, weather forecast system and bioinformatics products, with Geno-Cluster being one of them.


TRAI-type New Drugs Authority mooted

The Indian biotechnology industry has made wide-ranging recommendations for bringing about regulatory and fiscal changes to remove procedural and other impediments in the critical sector.

Industry representatives, who met the Indian Sub-Group on Clinical Research and Transfer of Biomaterials under the Indo-US Joint Industry Working Group on Biotechnology under the aegis of FICCI, at a meeting chaired by Dr MK Bhan, secretary, DBT, suggested that the proposed New Drug Authority, being considered by the ministry of health and family welfare on the lines of the US FDA, should be an independent statutory body on the lines of TRAI and IRDA. A scientific advisory board should be created for the purpose with persons of eminence who can guide its functioning.

Suggestions were also made that the New Drugs Authority should be adequately staffed with trained scientists. The transition from old to the new drug administration should be smooth in order not to adversely impact the industry.

The industry called for adoption of special procedures for speedy transfer and early clearance for perishable biological material. This could be achieved through a single window clearance by the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI). At present, clearances are required from the ministry of forests and environment and the Drugs Controller and approvals take anywhere between three to four months.

It was noted that the income tax department does not treat clinical research expenditure as R&D expenditure. It was suggested that the DBT should take up the issue with the concerned agencies.

On the issue of service tax for clinical research, considering the potential of the industry and the competition it faces from other countries, it was suggested that instead of taxing or giving financial relief, the DBT should consider exemption from service tax.

New Page 1

"We need to demystify science to make it understandable to common people"

- Prof. VL Chopra, member, Planning Commission, and former director-general, ICAR, and secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), New Delhi.

How soon do you think India can meet the huge challenge of hunger and malnutrition removal through the ongoing biotech revolution?

It is very difficult to give a time scale for this. The millennium development goals were set with numbers and between 1990 and now, there's hardly any millennium goal which we have not been able to meet. If you go by the number of poor people in the world or the number of people who do not have access to food, their numbers have actually increased. The millennium development goals were set by people for the objective of reducing disparity and removing poverty. But it is required that the people who set goals, should also make investments. These goals require not just the right kind of technology but also investments and modification of policies. So unless all these go hand in hand, it will not be possible to effectively address the problem of hunger and malnutrition. It really requires a commitment which is backed fully by investments, technology development and policy framework. Technology by itself will not be able to solve the problem.

What is the role that agribiotechnology can play in having more water-efficient and water-economic crop varieties in existing irrigated areas?

There certainly is a possibility of genetically modifying plants so that they have resistance to what is called abiotic stress. There are a number of candidate genes that we could have been working on which imbibe resistance/tolerance to the modified plants against the stresses of water, heat and certain things like salinity and so on. The genetics of these traits is a very complex one and while one has very good leads, there will be a little more time needed before one comes up with a kind of commercial products. But there certainly is very good promise of this with a lot of research investments globally in this.

How well-informed is the resistance to GM food/crops, particularly in India?

The very fact that there is this very strong position between the proponents and the opponents, clearly indicates that there is a missing link in terms of total assessment. And acceptance of the people. It is unfortunate that this exists even with such things as the Bt, which is possibly the most transgenic investigated event and has been around for quite sometime. The total acreage planted to the Bt crops across the world is constantly on the increase. The number of countries that are using transgenics commercially is on the increase. But there is also an increase in the intensity with which the opponents are opposing the introduction of GM crops. And that I believe has come about because of lack of total information and the regulatory procedures through which the GM crops have moved. This very strong divide between those who support and those who oppose does need a very serious effort in education and information sharing. We need to demystify science so that people can make an informed judgment on whether they want to opt for GM food or not. We all have our food preferences. We should give the consuming population an opportunity of choice. That is why the Indian government's stand has been that there will be a labeling requirement as required by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The GM food will be labeled. And with that kind of a labeling, people will have a choice.

What are the efforts being undertaken to win over the farming community to the Bt philosophy?

The figures put out for the expansion of the seed purchase of Bt is on the increase. One can conclude that more farmers want to buy Bt seeds. On the other hand, there are people who still feel that the Bt has not performed well. I believe that there are good reasons for this. Cotton is the only crop which we have until now as an approved Bt. As far as I know, all Bt cotton release uptil now has been meant for irrigated situations. If a Bt cotton identified for an irrigated condition, is planted under an unirrigated condition, it will naturally fail. These difficulties are arising because of the inappropriate application of a technology or because of causes that are more serious which we should look into. I think we should have an open mind. Bt will give some degree of protection against targeted pests, bollworm for example. It will not work against other pests. If the failure of the crop is not because of lack of protection against the gene, which has been introduced to get that protection, but because of onslaught of another pathogen or a pest, then the problem is not with Bt. The problem is that one did not have the complete and full advice on how to manage crops. What we should do is keep a close watch on what is happening. If there have been regulatory failures, we must correct it and regulate the system. But if these are not because of the regulatory system but because of the other external factors that I mentioned earlier, we cannot really blame the technology for this.

I have tried to answer all your concerns scientifically but I do realize that scientific explanations are always not sufficient. And that's the reason why we should make all our efforts to engage in discussion, conversation, clarification of ideas between those who produce the technology and those who are ultimately the users of the technology so that they are clear about what they are getting and then make a choice.

What is the kind of risk analysis that has been done with respect to Bt technology?

This is a gene which has been taken out of a soil-inhabiting bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis that naturally exists in nature. It is a specific sequence, not just the old DNA of the bacterium. It is just only that particular sequence of nucleotide which specifies the endotoxin. And this is the basic gene. Then one has put the driving forces, which is called the controlling elements inside. One has also put into it some selectable markers. So what has been done is to use this known sequence of DNA which experimentally has been shown to produce only that endotoxin and nothing else. One has put controlling elements, the nature of which is known. One has put selectable markers which are antibiotic markers and some people have problems with antibiotic markers because they feel that if this goes into large scale, there might be wider, although there is no experimental evidence for this as yet, but the suspicion or fear that it might enhance resistance to those drugs which one uses for curtailing other ailments. It has gone through a very large scale testing internationally. It has also been tested genetically by our Indian authorities. We must assess the concerns people have and as I said earlier, we should make the total information available in an understandable way to common people who do not know the complexities of the jargons so that they can make a honest choice.

Namratha Jagtap


IRL enters into pact with UK firm

IRL enters into pact with UK firm

ICRI Research Ltd (IRL), an associate company of the ICRI offering professional education courses (MSc and PG Diploma) in clinical research, has entered into a collaboration with UK-based Synexus Clinical Research PLC, a patient recruitment SMO (Site Management Organization) to establish a chain of dedicated, GCP-compliant clinical research centers in India. IRL-Synexus will offer dedicated investigator sites (clinical research centers) for Phase II–Phase IV clinical trials.

Vijay Moza, CEO, IRL said, "Our Mumbai center is now fully operational. The center is equipped with excellent clinical facilities and a well-qualified and trained clinical research staff, consisting of a principal investigator, research physicians, research nurses, technicians, clinical data coordinators, administrators and other support staff. There are plans to open more such centers (some hospital-based) in other cities in India in the near future."


Arch Pharmalabs partners with Apex Drug

Mumbai-based active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates manufacturer Arch Phamalabs Ltd has stated that it would have a co-marketing alliance with Apex Drugs & Intermediates Ltd. With the alliance Arch Pharmalabs hopes to enter the anti-ulcerants, anti-histamine and other therapeutic segments besides restructuring the company's manufacturing and backward integration strategy.

Speaking on the development, V Balaji, director, Arch Pharmalabs, said, "This is a new business model that we are continuing to nurture. We have been looking at such opportunities to help us expand our product and capabilities through partners thus exploring and banking on respective strengths in the manufacturing and marketing and offer the customers a single source for various products in various therapeutic segments."

The Hyderabad-based Apex Drugs confirmed the development and expects to double its top line and arrange its assets more effectively as a consequence of the alliance. Apex feels that the association would enable it to venture into untapped markets and access various support functions from the company like documentation, regulatory and compliance among others.

Arch Pharmalabs, in a similar agreement in June, had tied up with Hyderabad-based Sibra Pharmaceuticals for co-marketing in the area of anti-retro virals. The company's annual turnover is in the region of Rs 250 crore. The company is confident of similar alliances besides its organic growth strategy.

CyberMedia News


NPIL's Wellspring acquires 100% stake in Dr Phadke's Path labs

Wellspring, the chain of pathology laboratories and diagnostic centres promoted by Nicholas Piramal India Pvt. Ltd (NPIL), has acquired the remaining 40 percent stake in an all cash deal of Rs 14 crore in its joint venture with Dr Phadke's Path Labs in Mumbai. It will now be called Wellspring-Dr Avinash Phadke Pathlab and Diagnostics. This will make Wellspring one of the India's largest pathology laboratory chains. Dr Avinash Phadke will now assume the responsibilities of director technical for Wellspring chain of laboratories.

Dr Swati Piramal, director, Strategic Alliance and Communication, NPIL, said, "Wellspring-Dr. Avinash Phadke Labs consists of a chain of 'new age' path labs that hope to deliver, at every customer contact point, the highest standard of professionalism, technology and patient care. We are well equipped and committed to deliver an all-encompassing range of pathology and imaging services."

Dr Avinash Phadke said, "We are delighted to deepen the relationship with Nicholas after over five years of a very fruitful association as a JV. The deal will allow us to streamline our operations, expand our menu into areas like radiology, cardiology, clinical trials, industrial pathology and many other areas and of course we will continue to provide highest quality pathology investigations of international standards at prices affordable to the local population."

With 70 processing centers in 35 cities across the country, it registered revenue of Rs 50 crore last year and expects to reach Rs 90 crore this year. Wellspring–Dr Avinash Phadke Path Labs has received the NABL Accreditation for immunology, histopathology, genetic testing, microbiology, biochemistry and haematology on the basis of international quality control programs, technical evaluation and ISO 15189 guidelines.


iGATE Clinical Research completes Phase I trials of Meningitis vaccine

Mumbai-based iGATE Clinical Research International has successfully completed the Phase I clinical trial of a new meningococcal A conjugate vaccine for the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), an American NGO based in Seattle. MVP's goal is to eliminate epidemic meningitis as a public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa.

iGATE CRI was awarded a five-year contract by MVP for clinical trial services spanning Phase I to Phase III testing that will include seven clinical trials. The new meningococcal A vaccine is manufactured by Serum Institute of India.


Pradeep Gupta elected to INS Executive Committee

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) elected its new executive committee on September 18, 2006 at its 67th Annual General Meeting. Pradeep Gupta, CMD, CyberMedia, was one of the eight new members elected to the executive committee.

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) is the centralized body for the Press in India. It represents over 990 dailies, bi-weeklies, weeklies, fortnightlies and monthlies published in 18 languages from all over the country.


Lilly India to launch anti-cancer drug Alimta

Eli Lilly and Company, India, has received regulatory approval to launch Alimta (pemetrexed disodium), for use in combination with cisplatin for the treatment of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM)-a rare type of cancer. Alimta has also been approved as second line treatment for non small cell lung cancer.

Sandeep Gupta, CMD, Eli Lilly India, said, "The company is delighted to launch Alimta, the world's first approved treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Research indicates that MPM has strong correlation with exposure to asbestos. MPM is difficult to treat since it is highly malignant and is often diagnosed at an advanced stage."

Dr SH Advani, chief of medical oncology, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, expressed that Alimta could offer some hope in such patients.

Alimta was approved in 2004 in the US. Since then it has been approved in more than 70 countries and regions including the EU, Australia and Canada. "Approximately 10,000-15,000 people worldwide are diagnosed annually with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Most people do not learn they have MPM until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage when treatment with surgery or radiation is no longer an option", said Dr Purvish Parikh, professor and head of medical oncology at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai.

The American Chemical Society recently named the three researchers, who led the discovery and development of Alimta, as Heroes of Chemistry. The scientists received the award on September 10, 2006 at the ACS national meeting in San Francisco, USA. Researchers Homer Pearce, PhD, Chuan (Joe) Shih, PhD, and Edward C Taylor, PhD, led a long-standing collaboration between Eli Lilly and Company and Princeton University that resulted in the compound Alimta being developed.

Dabur OncQuest hosts doctors

Dabur OncQuest hosts doctors' meet in Kolkata

Dabur OncQuest, which is at the forefront of oncology research, recently hosted a doctors' conference in Kolkata.

The conference was organized to discuss the growing importance of cancer diagnostics in the wake of increasing instances of the cancer in the country and to bring to the forefront initiatives in early diagnosis by Dabur OncQuest in this direction.

On the occasion, Ashish Mukherjee, medical director, Himadri Memorial Cancer Welfare Trust, said, "OncQuest has developed a wide array of clinically relevant molecular-based tests, designed to aid medical fraternity who are directly involved in cancer patient care. This conference is an excellent platform for the medical fraternity to come together and discuss the latest advances in the cancer diagnostics arena."

Expressing his views, Vivek Trikha, head - diagnostics, Dabur OncQuest, said, "Our mission at OncQuest is to extend the survival and improve the quality of life of cancer patients by providing scientifically advanced, cost-effective molecular diagnostics tests to help doctors and their patients to optimize cancer care. We look to improve patient care by building professional relationships through excellence in laboratory testing, service, education and research."

Aditya C Burman, general manager, regional head – Latin America reiterated the company's vision as "to be the reference laboratory of choice for Cancer health care systems, as the most responsive source of quality information and knowledge."

The conference featured talks by Dr Sarjana Dutt, scientific manager, Dabur OncQuest and Dr Ashish Mukherjee, medical director, Himadri Memorial Cancer Welfare Trust. Other eminent participants included Dr Moloy Ghosh, Dr Ujwal Mani, Dr Maitreyee Bhattarcharjee and Dr Utpal Choudhury.


India a preferred short-term option for MPCs: report

A slowdown in the output of new drugs is ailing the global pharmaceutical industry. The best opportunity to overcome this is to improve the probabilities that lie in R&D – the activities that create the most value for the industry in the long run. And one particular exciting prospect for R&D lies in the East, according to a report from The Boston Consulting Group, "Looking Eastward-Tapping China and India to reinvigorate the global biopharmaceutical industry".

The report notes that as threats to their profitability looms large, multinational pharma companies (MPCs) should take a strategic look at increasing their R&D off shoring to China and India. The BCG reported that India tends to be a preferred short-term option where an ever increasing selection of activities across the R&D value chain can be outsourced to local vendors.


BV Biologicals sets up biocontainment plant at Pune

BV Biologicals, a group company of Venkateshwara Hatcheries, specializing in livestock management and healthcare, has set up biocontainment plant at Rajiv Gandhi Biotech Park, Hinjewadi, Pune. It is a biological safety levels category plant with state-of-the-art containment processes and has closed operating systems with carefully monitored functional procedures.

OP Singh, CEO, Venkateshwara Hatcheries Group, said, "Our aim is to explore the challenges posed by bioterrorism and other emerging infectious diseases in the country. Biosecurity and biocontainment strategies will help us reduce the risk of disease and ensure that microorganisms don't thrive and proliferate to the community or environment. "

The plant will accelerate important scientific work to develop vaccines for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) as per WHO and cGMP norms. It will have a highly controlled environment in which vaccine production and testing can be carried out using state-of-the-art technology to respond more effectively to events such as an animal disease outbreak and food safety concerns.


Panacea Biotec gets patent for nimesulide

Panacea Biotec has announced having been granted a 20-year Indian patent for its process for the preparation of controlled release pharmaceutical composition containing nimesulide.

Panacea Biotec's controlled release nimesulide, a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), was launched under the brand name Willgo in 2004 in India. The company says Willgo has recorded a growth rate of around 48 per cent over last year according to ORG IMS June 2006.

"The recent grant of extended release nimesulide, Willgo, patent has greatly boosted our morale to keep up our efforts in developing novel and innovative drug delivery systems through our R&D efforts. Willgo provides effective management of osteoarthritis by providing continuous relief from chronic joint pain in osteoarthritis patients. Willgo offers excellent patient compliance, as only one tablet needs to be taken at bedtime. We have already received this patent in 10 countries so far, out of 34 countries, where patent applications have been flied," said Rajesh Jain, joint managing director, Panacea Biotec Ltd.

According to IMS MIDAS Quantum, (June 2005), the size of the global NSAID market is around $11 billion annually. Between 2000-2005, NSAIDs categorised as coxibs (celecoxib, rofecoxib, valdecoxib, etoricoxib) were the most preferred NSAIDs in managing osteoarthritis.


Kapil Sibal presents CSIR Young Scientist Awards

Kapil Sibal, union minister for science and technology and earth sciences, presented the CSIR Young Scientist Awards 2006 to six scientists on the occasion of 64th Foundation Day of CSIR. The award carries a citation and a cash prize of Rs 50,000 each. The award aims to promote excellence and recognized outstanding work in science and technology in the CSIR system. The award winners are: Dr Mohammad Sohail Akhtar (biological sciences), Dr B Rajkumar Banerjee, Dr Srinivas Hotha (chemical science), Dr Sandip Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Dr Prakash Kumar (earth, atmosphere, ocean and planetary sciences) and Dr P Thankaivelan (engineering sciences).


GEAC gives nod to Lumis for import of Indiage MAX L

Lumis has received approval from Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for import of Indiage MAX L – a cellulase enzyme produced by Genecor International for use in denim washing subject to some of the conditions. The conditions include the DGFT would monitor the quantity of import and subsequent export after value addition.


Ranbaxy launches Storvas in Malaysia

Ranbaxy Laboratories announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Ranbaxy Malaysia Sdn Bhd. (RMSB), has launched the first generic Atorvastatin, under the brand name Storvas in Malaysia.

The product will be made available through all major GPs (General Practitioners), pharmacies and hospitals in Malaysia. Storvas will be sold in dosage forms of 10mg, 20mg and 40mg, a release said.

Earlier in July 2006, RMSB became the first company to receive approvals to market generic Oseltamavir under the brand name, Fluhalt-an antiviral used for treatment of H5N1 virus and was awarded a contract for supply to the Malaysian government.

Commenting on the launch, T Jeyabalan, managing director, RMSB, said, "It is our constant endeavor to offer affordable and safe generics of high quality to the patients in Malaysia and provide support to the government's healthcare plan."

Ranbaxy has received approvals from the Drugs Control Authority of Malaysia to manufacture and market the products, which are being produced at Ranbaxy's facility in Malaysia.

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