• 14 October 2008
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Open Source Drug Discovery gets Rs 500 crore
Inaugurating the Open source drug discovery portal by the Council for scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR), the Minister of science and technology, Kapil Sibal announced that a sum of Rs 500 crore has been set aside in the next 5 to 6 years for the Open source Drug Discovery programme. "Open source drug discovery is the largest collaborative effort since human genome sequencing and perhaps the largest in the world," he said.

CSIR has launched an innovative 'Open Source drug discovery' OSDD programme to combat the scourge of infectious diseases that afflict the developing world. A CSIR led consortium with global partnership, OSDD aims to provide affordable healthcare to all inspired by the success of open source movements in software and the Human Genome Sequencing Project. The web portal http://www.osdd.net will provide a platform for collaborative research, data on pathogens, tools for data analysis and discussion forum for members to share ideas, projects for students to participate in drug discovery etc. Tuberculosis or TB will be the first disease target. Elaborating on the same, the minister said, "There are only 3 drugs for TB as compared to 399 for cancer and TB also accounts for a number of deaths in the country. Hence it was decided to focus on TB." Seven CSIR institutes along with five non-CSIR institutes are collaborating in the project along with industry support from Sun Microsystems, TCG Lifesciences and Jalaja technologies amongst others.

 

CSIR celebrates its 66th Foundation Day
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR celebrated its 66th Foundation Day on 26 September 2008. Kapil Sibal, Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences gave away the CSIR Young Scientist Awards 2008 and the CSIR Technology Awards 2008 at a function organized in New Delhi to mark the occasion.

In his address, Sibal called upon the scientific community to bring science out of laboratories in the form of solutions to the day-to-day problems of the people. Observing that India is the third most attractive nation for R&D, Sibal reiterated the commitment of the government to provide world-class environment for scientists to pursue their research.

Lauding the recent launch of an open source platform by CSIR, the minister strongly advocated a system of free flow of information. He also praised the Project 800 of the CSIR which aims at bringing solutions to 800 million people in the country in the areas of agriculture, energy and health.

Prof. Bartha Maria Knoppfers of the University of Montreal, Canada, delivered the CSIR Foundation Day lecture on Investments in Health Research and International Interoperability. On the occasion Prof. Samir K. Brahmachari, Director General, CSIR announced the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes for 2008. He also named the winners of the CSIR Award for S&T Innovation in Rural Development.

 

Agri minister wants 'declared good' tag for biofuels
Inaugurating the first Biofuels India Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Sharad Pawar, Chairman of the Group of Ministers on the , National Biofuel Policy said the new National Policy on Biofuels envisaged ambitious targets, which would certainly boost biofuels as an alternative energy source and thereby facilitate greater investment in the sector.

Vilas Muttemwar, Minister of State for New & Renewable Energy, said that the National policy on biofuels has been cleared by the group of ministers headed by Pawar and is now awaiting Cabinet approval. He expressed hope that it would provide a roadmap for the Indian industry and the public sector to tap the full potential of this critical sector. The ministers also highlighted India's approach to biofuels is based solely on non-food feedstocks to be raised on degraded or wastelands that are not suited for agriculture, thus avoiding a possible conflict of fuel vs food security.

The CII agenda also calls for the creation of a Second-Generation Biofuels Fund along with the setting up of four Regional Bio Energy Centres to boost R&D activities and pilot projects in the sector. On the occasion, Mr Pawar released a CII-Rabobank Strategy Paper titled 'Sustainable Biofuel Policy for India'. The paper sets forth a comprehensive agenda for promoting sustainable development of the biofuels sector in the country with a view to enhancing energy security.

 

Wellcome Trust and Indian government announce £80 million partnership
The Wellcome Trust, UK's largest charity announced a jointly-funded Biomedical Research Career Programme to fund cutting-edge biomedical research in India in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology. The £80m scheme, jointly funded by the Government of India's Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Wellcome Trust over 5 years, aims to strengthen the research base of Indian biomedical science by providing fellowship programmes to support researchers from newly-qualified post-docs through to senior researchers.

The programme will be delivered by the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, an independent, public charitable trust based in New Delhi and established by the two partners. Each year, the Alliance is expected to award around 40 early careers fellowships, 20 intermediate fellowships and 15 senior research fellowships. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said, "India has a wealth of academic talent and it is important that we can support the best researchers throughout their careers."

"This venture is the creation of the opportunities to get scientists from abroad back into India," he said. "India has embarked on a range of new institution building programmes. By attracting the best scientists back to work in these locations, we hope to make research and discovery a real contributor to health and wellbeing of not only Indians but of humankind in general," said Dr MK Bhan, Secretary, DBT.

 

Gates Foundation accepting proposals for Grand Challenges Explorations

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is now accepting grant proposals for Round 2 of Grand Challenges Explorations, a US$100 million initiative to encourage bold and unconventional global health solutions. Proposals will be accepted online at: www.gcgh.org/explorations through November 2, 2008.

The topic areas for which proposals will be accepted for Round 2 of the Grand Challenges Explorations
initiative are:

  • Create new vaccines for diarrhea, HIV, malaria, pneumonia, and tuberculosis

  • Create new tools to accelerate the eradication of malaria

  • Creating new ways to protect against infectious diseases, including alternatives to traditional vaccination.

  • Create new drugs and delivery systems to limit the emergence of resistance from developing in the disease-causing agent

  • Create new ways to prevent or cure HIV infection that fall outside current research on vaccines, antiretroviral drugs, and other biomedical and behavior-change strategies

  • Explore the basis for latency in TB, with the goal of discovering new ways to identify and eliminate latent infection, and break the cycle of TB transmission

The foundation and an independent group of reviewers will select the most innovative proposals, and grants will be awarded within approximately three months from the proposal submission deadline. Initial grants will be $100,000 each. Projects showing success will have the opportunity to receive additional funding of $1 million or more.

 

Avesthagen's new Strategic Scientific Advisory Board addresses its multidisciplinary product pipeline
Bangalore-based Avesthagen Ltd has announced its new Strategic Scientific Advisory Board and organized its first three-day meeting to evaluate and guide the company's scientific and research initiatives. The advisory board consists of well-known international scientists like, Dr Robert L Strausberg, Deputy Director-J Craig Venter Institute, Dr Jean-Pierre Isal (MD), Dr Chris Bowler, Organismes Photosynthetiques et Enviroment-Department de Biologie, Paris, Dr. Jean Luc Tonneau, Strategic Planning Director-Danone Research, Dr. Sven Thormahlen, Director General –Danone Research, Professor Jacques Henry Weil, Institute de Botanique, France, Prof. Frank Ganon, Director General -Science Foundation Ireland and Dr. Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor- University of Maryland

The Indian experts included Prof G Padmanabhan, Honorary Professor – Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Prof. N K Ganguly , former Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, India, Prof. Satyajit Mayor, Professor-Cellular Organization and Signaling Group, National Center for Biological Science, Bangalore.

 

DuPont India opens first research facility at Hyderabad
DuPont India, a subsidiary of E I du Pont de Nemours has launched its first research facility at the DuPont Knowledge Center (DKC) in Hyderabad. The DKC will undertake basic research and product application development across all five of the business growth platforms for global and local markets, as well as offer other knowledge services to DuPont businesses.

The India center is the first integrated agriculture and industrial biotechnology research center for DuPont outside the US. The other research facilities at the DKC will come up in phases over the next couple of months, and the complete DKC is expected to be formally inaugurated sometime before this year-end.

The biotech research center at DKC will focus on bringing new crop genetics to the market faster and on application of industrial biotechnology to produce biofuels and biomaterials for global markets. Research teams will work to deliver new technologies and products for the DuPont agriculture and nutrition platform and the DuPont applied biosciences business for India and global markets. Starting with more than 80 crop genetics and industrial biotech scientists, DuPont expects the number at the biotech research center to double by year-end. An estimated total of - 600 scientists and engineers across all disciplines will work out of DKC once it is fully functional.

Emphasizing the significance of the DKC, Balvinder Kalsi, president and CEO, DuPont India, said, "The center will provide substantially increased competitiveness to build the future of DuPont and contribute to DuPont India's growth. This will enable us to increase our speed to market with products that come out of our R&D and innovations pipeline, not only for India but also for other growth regions."

 

Biocon presents successful human clinical data on IN-105 at EASD in Rome
Biocon Limited announced the results of an ascending dose study with their oral insulin drug (IN-105) at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting in Rome. IN-105 is a novel analog of insulin, proprietary to Biocon. The product has special properties that make it feasible for delivery in tablet form stable at room temperature. The outcome measurements were the safety and tolerability of IN-105, as well as the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of IN-105. The results showed that IN-105 was safe and well tolerated by patients.

There were no symptomatic hypoglycemic events observed at any of the doses. "The present study shows that IN105 delivers physiologically active insulin orally in concentrations sufficient to decrease post-meal hyperglycemia and to decrease the burden of the meal on endogenous insulin secretion. These data support the feasibility of providing insulin orally to treat postprandial hyperglycemia in diabetic patients" affirmed Dr Harold E Lebovitz, M.D, FACE, Professor Of Medicine, Endocrinology and Diabetes State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn.

 

BioNews New Page 2

Xcelris Labs enters into strategic alliance with DMRI
Xcelris Labs, an Ahmedabad based CRO (Contract Research Organization) set up by promoters of Claris Lifesciences Ltd., announced, that it has entered into a strategic alliance agreement with Drug Monitoring and Research Institute (DMRI), Mumbai to provide Bio Analytical /Bio Equivalence services. Under the agreement, Xcelris Labs will work with DMRI as a partner to provide BA/BE services to its clients.

Commenting on this development, Aditya Handa, Director, Xcelris Labs said, "DMRI is an independent CRO (Clinical Research Organization) providing drug research and clinical services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in drug research and development phases and offers wide range of services in the category of Bio Analytical / Bio Equivalence studies with Clinical Trials, which form part of the said research and development phases. The synergy would enable Xcelris Labs to better connect with the end-customers and in the process create value for them in the market place".

 

Genzyme/MMV announces collaboration with Advinus for malaria therapies
Genzyme Corp, a global name for Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and a not-for-profit virtual research and development (R&D) organization, announced a new collaboration with India's Advinus Therapeutics Ltd. The collaboration seeks to develop new, improved treatments for specific patient groups most at risk for malaria, an often-fatal infectious disease of developing countries, particularly affecting pregnant women and infants.

The ongoing MMV/Genzyme partnership also includes The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. The team has begun to identify promising lead candidates, coming out of its innovative platform for high-throughput screening of several compound libraries. Among the kinds of compounds to be optimized, with the help of Advinus, are those active against key target enzymes that are essential for the survival of the malaria parasite.

"Malaria kills between one and two million people annually, with the majority of victims being children under five and pregnant women," said Dr Chris Hentschel, president and chief executive officer of MMV. "New antimalarial agents are urgently needed to stop this unacceptable loss of life, with eradication as our long-term objective. MMV is excited to be working with innovative research organizations like Genzyme and Advinus to identify these very molecules."

Dr Rashmi Barbhaiya, CEO of Advinus, said, "This collaboration once again confirms the commitment of Advinus and the TATA group to develop medicines for neglected diseases. India today is one of the few countries in the world that has not only the disease burden, but also the capability to research and develop new therapies for these diseases. Advinus, in particular, with its extensive drug discovery and development expertise, is uniquely positioned to work with MMV and Genzyme to address this crucial public health problem."

 

ISCR launches Mumbai chapter
Indian Society for Clinical Research (ISCR), a not-for-profit association of organizations, launched its Mumbai Chapter, which will be the headquarters of the western region. The association hopes to enrol 30 member organizations by 2010.

ISCR, which was formed in 2005, recently launched the Bangalore and the Delhi Chapters, the headquarters of the southern and the northern regions respectively.

"The launch of Mumbai Chapter is an important day for ISCR. The number becomes significant as more than 70 per cent of clinical research work done in the country is by ISCR members," said Dr SM Sapatnekar, convener, ISCR Mumbai chapter. Dr. Sapatnekar is also the director of Clinical Research Education and Management Academy (CREMA), a leading institution that provides education in the area of clinical research.

ISCR has a membership from 18 organizations, including Astra Zeneca, CREMA, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer, Neeman, Quintiles, and ClinInvent. In addition, the association also has support from 325 individual members.

 

India looks for cooperation with Wallonia in biotechnology
The Embassy of Belgium organized an educational seminar for companies and startups in the life science and medical device sectors looking for distribution, strategic alliances, capital and network in Europe, on 22September 2008 in New Delhi.

Rajan Kohli, deputy secretary general, FICCI said on the occasion, " India has a nascent presence in the life sciences sector growing at an annual rate of 30 percent. It needs an ecosystem of academia and government support and DBT is playing a proactive approach in supporting the growth of the industry."

Jean-Pierre Muller, First Secretary, Embassy of Belgium, Wallonia Brussels Economic Commission informed that the country had more than $ 8 billion trade with India with 420 Indian students currently studying in Belgium. "In Biopharma we have Indian participation in Jubilant, Ranbaxy and Matrix Laboratories," he said.

J-C Marcourt, Minister for Economy of the Wallonia Region of Belgium outlined that life sciences is one of the most competitive sectors of Wallonia with the country having developed the world's first vaccine for rubella and meningitis. "We have contributed to global research in AIDS, cancer and neural diseases owing to the collaboration between the manufacturers and the research institutes. The country is home to companies such as Pfizer, Baxter, UCB, GSK Biologicals and Rosentech. The entire value chain ranging from R&D, clinical trials, licensing and marketing can be found in the region. Wallonia is boosting innovation through the creation of networks between companies and academia." Dr. S. Natesh, Senior Advisor (Scientist-H) & Head, International Collaboration, Department of Biotechnology, government of India, gave an overview of the Indian biotech industry and expressed the desire to explore opportunities in the sector with Wallonia.

 

First meeting of SAARC ministers of science & technology
The First Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Science & Technology was held in New Delhi on September 16, 2008. It was preceded by the Third Meeting of the Technical Committee on Science & Technology and the Meeting of Senior Officials on September 15. The declaration of the ministers to promote science & technology in the development of the region was adopted.

The ministers recognized the need of inculcating a scientific temper amongst the people of South Asia for meeting the developmental challenges of the region and the importance of educating the future generations on science and technology for nurturing the vast pool of scientific and technological manpower in the region.

Noting the region's vast pool of scientific and technological manpower's contribution to ushering in the Green Revolution, White Revolution, and the Revolution in IT and the establishment of the Micro-Credit system in the region, the Ministers reiterated their commitment to strengthen intra-regional cooperation through a Programme of Cooperation in Science & Technology, through establishment of a virtual SAARC Technology Information and a commercialization web portal linking existing technology transfer/licensing organization in SAARC countries.

The ministers also agreed on regional seminars on Renewable Energy, Solid Waste Management, Orthodontics, Water Treatment and Sanitation, with clear modalities for implementation to derive benefits from the cooperation synergy between SAARC member states for the people of South Asia. The meeting agreed to put into operation the SAARC Science Caravan that will travel to all SAARC member states to popularise science amongst the students of the region. The next meeting of the SAARC Ministers of Science & Technology would be held in Colombo in 2009.

 

Goa and Novo Nordisk launch campaign to treat diabetes
Novo Nordisk Education Foundation, in association with the Goa government has announced the launch of two new healthcare initiatives for the state. It was inaugurated by Vishwajeet Rane, minister of state for health, and Melvin D'Souza, managing trustee, Novo Nordisk Education Foundation.

The first initiative is the plan to organize a mobile diabetes clinic and the second,

a workshop on Diabetic Foot Care conducted by Ms Alethea Foster, a former Consultant Podiatrist at Kings College, London. The Improve Control in Diabetes Mobile Clinic is part of an initiative by Novo Nordisk to take diabetes care to the grassroots level in India.

The Improve Control in Diabetes Mobile Clinic is a van designed to deliver high standards in diabetes detection and treatment facilitation. Equipped with blood glucose monitoring systems, weight check and body mass index platforms as well as patient education materials, the Improve Control in Diabetes Mobile Clinic will encourage doctors along its route to leverage facilities within the bus to monitor and ensure better glycemic control of people in their respective regions.

Commenting on the launch of the Mobile Clinic, Rane, said, "We welcome the Novo Nordisk Education Foundation's initiative in diabetes care for the state of Goa. The Changing Diabetes Barometer project holds promise in ensuring that Goa places diabetes care on top of its healthcare agenda and the state benefits by best practices in diabetes care from across the globe. We aspire to making Goa as a model state in diabetes care and urge people with diabetes in the state to come forward and avail of the various screening and awareness programmes planned."

Novo Nordisk Education Foundation had recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Goa government to implement the 'Changing Diabetes Barometer' initiative in the state and the Improve Control in Diabetes Mobile Clinic is the first step in this direction. The Changing Diabetes Barometer is a major global initiative by Novo Nordisk which aims to capture important dimensions of the fight against diabetes and establish measurability, allowing the tracking and guidance of healthcare improvements.

On the occasion, D'Souza, said, "We are happy to launch the IMPROVE Control in Diabetes Mobile Clinic in Goa and thank the government for its support. This

launch would reiterate our commitment to diabetes care in the state of Goa and help drive widespread awareness about diabetes and in the early detection of the same, so as to prevent the early onset of complications associated with diabetes. Novo Nordisk is committed to facilitating the redefinition of healthcare delivery systems around the needs of people with diabetes and to raising awareness about the global burden of diabetes."

 

Biocon is the 7th largest biotech employer in the world : Med Ad News
Biocon, India's second largest biotech company based in Bangalore, has been ranked as the 7th largest employer amongst the top global biotechnology companies, according to a report released by Med Ad News. The report takes into consideration drug based firms, as these companies provide the best numbers to track the progress of the sector. Companies have been ranked by number of employees and Biocon Ltd is the only Asian company to feature at Number 7.

Leading Biotech Companies 2007 - By Number of Employees

Rank 2007

Company

Employees in 2007

Employees in 2006

1

Amgen Inc

17,500

20,100

2

UCB SA

12,102

8,477

3

Genetech Inc.

11,174

10,533

4

Genzyme Corp.

10,000

9,000

5

CSL Ltd.

8,423

7,575

6

Biogen Idec Inc.

4,300

3,750

7

Biocon Ltd.

3,000

2,543

8

Gilead Sciences Inc.

2,979

2,515

9

Cephalon Inc.

2,796

2,895

10

Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc.

1,990

1,550

Source: Med Ad News, 2008

 

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