• 10 January 2007
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Reliance Life Sciences to invest Rs 279 crore in GeneMedix

Reliance Life Sciences to invest Rs 279 crore in GeneMedix

Reliance Life Sciences (RLS), a flag ship company of Reliance Group owned by Mukesh Ambani, will invest a total of up to £32.1 million (Rs 279 crore) in GeneMedix, a UK-based biopharmaceutical company over the next five years in order to take the its biosimilars through to launch in the EU and US.

As per the proposal, RLS will make this investment in two tranches of approximately £14.6 million (Rs 127 crore) and £17.5 million (Rs 152 crore), to reflect the anticipated funding requirements of the business. The initial investment will be through a subscription for Subscription Shares and the second through the issue of additional Ordinary Shares pursuant to the future exercise of the Warrant Instrument, all such shares ranking pari passu with the Existing Ordinary Shares in all respects.

Initially RLS is seeking to acquire an interest of 74 per cent in GeneMedix through the investment of £14.6 million (Rs 127 crore), which will immediately allow GeneMedix to restructure its balance sheet by removing long-term debt instruments. This will improve the strength of its balance sheet and should also allow it to benefit from improved infrastructure and products available as a result of RLS's involvement in the company.

RLS's initial investment would be made by a subscription for 1,168,254,570 subscription shares at 1.25p each to raise £14.6 million (Rs 127 crore) pursuant to the subscription agreement. The price equates to a discount of 50 per cent to the middle-market price as at December 18 2006 being the last practicable date prior to the publication of this announcement. Shareholder approval is specifically being sought for this issue of shares to RLS by the Company at this discount by virtue of the fact that the price equates to a discount of more than 10 per cent to the middlemarket price stated above.

At the time of RLS's initial investment, GeneMedix will issue it with a 5-year warrant representing 1,403,742,972 additional Ordinary Shares (or after Consolidation the equivalent number of Consolidated Ordinary Shares) purchasable at a price of 1.25p (or 12.5p after Consolidation) and exercisable pursuant to the warrant instrument. RLS may invest up to a further £17.5 million upon exercise of the warrant over a five-year period.

 

TERI School of Advanced Studies is now TERI University

The TERI School of Advanced Studies has been rechristened TERI University. Set up as the TERI School of Advanced Studies in 1998, the institution was recognized as a deemed university by the University Grants Commission in 1999 and subsequently renamed as TERI University now. At present, the university offers PhD, MSc (Environmental Studies), MSc (Natural Resources Management), MA (Public Policy & Sustainable Development) and MBA (Infrastructure) programs.

The TERI University has been set up as an institution of higher learning to meet the needs of a rapidly developing India. But, as a global institution, while it draws strength from the ethos and traditions of India, it reaches out in sourcing knowledge from across the globe. Its major strength lies in the reservoir of knowledge, experience and research experience of the parent body TERI. The academic programs of the university have been structured around the research experience and skill sets gained in TERI over the last three decades. Having begun with doctoral programs in 2001, it has gone on to offer various master's degrees since 2003. The doctoral programs and research center around four basic themes: natural resources management, biotechnology, policy and regulation, and energy and environment.

In order to facilitate mutually beneficial exchange of students, faculty, knowledge, resources, and ideas, TERI University has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies of the Yale University; with Monash University and La Trobe University, Australia; Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre, USA; and the University of Nottingham, UK.

 

"BT opens new vistas to tackle complex problems of world food security"

Biotechnology has created enormous potential in health and medicine, agriculture, food technology, industrial technology, unlocking new vistas for tackling various complex problems of world food security, said A Raja, minister for environment and forests.

Inaugurating a three-day International conference on "Implications of the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety" in New Delhi recently, he said recent breakthroughs in biotechnology have led to rapid progress in understanding various aspects. They include genetic basis of living organisms, the ability to develop products and processes useful to human and animal health besides food and agriculture industry.

Referring to the field of agriculture, he said transgenic or marker-assisted selection will assist in the development of high-yielding crops. This will be needed to feed the world and save land from other pressures. The benefits of genetically modified crops will be better obtained in weed and insect control.

The minister said the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety as an international legal agreement under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the only international law that deals specifically with the issue of genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Biosafety concerns need to be addressed through the provisions of this protocol. India is implementing a GEF-World Bank capacity building project on biosafety to address such issues.

In his keynote address, Namo Narain Meena, minister of state for environment and forests, said that in the matter of biosafety laws and policies, India is one of early movers in the developing world, who introduced in the country biosafety rules even before the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted at Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Meena further added that since 1989, biosafety rules are being implemented at institutional districts, state and central levels in India. National Biodiversity Act 2002 and the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act 2001 (PPVFR) exist in the country. It is now time to work towards building up capacities to address the biosafety issues.

Earlier, the third National Report to CBD and a book entitled Biosafety Issues & Challenges, were released at the event.

 

India signs MoUs with Canada to strengthen S&T ties

India has signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with Canada to strengthen science and technology relations with each other. The MoUs were signed between the Department of Biotechnology and Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food of Canada (AAFC) and National Research Council, (NRC) Canada.

The MoU with the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada was signed by Leonard Edwards, deputy minister, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and Dr MK Bhan, secretary, DBT, on behalf of their respective countries. The major objectives of the agreement include providing researchers and institutions with opportunities to exchange scientific information and to facilitate the exchange of scientists; and fostering scientific cooperation and promoting cooperative projects mutually beneficial to the two countries including industrial programs.

The identified priorities for cooperation include agriculture and food processing and storage; Bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers; Functional and nutraceutical foods and impact on human nutrition; Agricultural biotechnology; Biomass utilization; Sustainable alternative energy and environmental technologies; and Water quality. Both AAFC and DBT will be holding joint workshops in identified areas to work out the details in the near future.

The MoU with National Research Council, Canada was signed by vice president, Dr Roman Szumski, National Research Council, Canada and Dr S Natesh, senior advisor, DBT, on behalf of their respective countries. The major objectives are to promote research collaboration in the field of biotechnology of mutual interest by encouraging and facilitating close and frequent consultation between the DBT and NRC.

The identified priorities for initial collaboration between the DBT and NRC are: Harnessing plants for improving human and animal health; and Understanding and exploiting genomics of plants of common interest to the benefit of both the countries; collaborations in additional areas such as, but not limited to, vaccine design, production and delivery systems, and biodevices are being explored.

 

Ontario Premier to visit India to enhance business relations in research and innovation

Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, a Canadian province and one of leading hotspots for life sciences in the North America, is a leading business delegation to India from January 14-17, 2007. The objective of the mission is to increase Ontario's profile as a producer of innovative and quality goods and services for which demand exists in India and as a destination for investment, to introduce Ontario exporters to the potential of the Indian markets, to promote collaboration between Ontario and India in the area of research and development and to promote Ontario's education expertise and resources.

Besides the heads of the companies, the Premier who is also the Minister of Research and Innovation, Government of Ontario, is accompanied by other ministers-Sandra Pupatello, minister, Economic Development and Trade and Harinder Takhar, Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Government of Ontario. During the visit, the delegation will be visiting biotech companies and leading R&D institutes in Bangalore and Mumbai.

Explaining further about the mission Sandra Pupatello, minister, Economic Development and Trade said, "We will seek out partnership and contract opportunities in education, research and innovation, infrastructure, financial services and cultural industries. We will build and strengthen these relationships to benefit both the Ontario and Indian economies and create more prosperity for people."

Sharing his views about the India visit, Harinder Takhar, Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, observed, "It's our goal to boost trade and bring new investments to Ontario that will create economic spin-offs for communities throughout the province. We know that teaming with India's talented workforce can make this happen. Our Business Mission to India gives Ontario the chance to showcase why it's one of the best places in the world to do business. India's business leaders will see firsthand our dedicated workforce and many innovative companies."

 

Bio-Rad conducts DNA workshops

Bio-Rad India has teamed up with Indigenese Biotechnologies to conduct Biotechnology Explorer Workshops for educators. Two two-day workshops were held at Hyderabad in December. The workshops were designed to enable educators to integrate hands on molecular biology lab activities in biology class lessons. Dr Essy Levy, a Bio-Rad laboratories field specialist from San Diego, California and KC Jones, a science educator from San Francisco, California conducted the two workshops, which were divided in two levels.

Level I introduced the attendees to the extraction of DNA, the creation of genetically modified organisms and ELISA testing. The level II of the workshop delved into the application of DNA in forensics, finger printing and genetically modified foods.

Indigenese Biotechnologies is an enterprise started by Indian scientists, trained in institutes of repute in the US, with a mission to enrich conceptual learning and technical skills in students of modern biology.

Dhiren Wagle, country manager, Bio-Rad India, inaugurated the workshop and said, "The biotechnology industry is experiencing a rapid growth which demands more skilled workers than are available. This biotechnology workshop will play an integral role in supporting education, helping to develop today's students as tomorrow's scientists, problem solvers, and stewards of the environment." He further added, "Bio-Rad's Biotechnology Explorer program has provided over a million students around the world with the opportunity to explore the fundamental techniques of genetic engineering, DNA fingerprinting, amplification etc."

The Biotechnology Explorer program provides access to technological innovations through practical hands-on activities. These workshops have gained immense popularity in the teaching and student community, across the Americas and Europe.

 

IICT licenses anti-cancer patents to Indus Biotech

The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, has successfully licensed five US patents on anti-cancer agents to Indus Biotech (US) for upfront payment of Rs 43 lakh. Promoted by NRIs, the Indus Biotech will also pay $3.50 lakh towards milestone payments and royalty at three percent on net sales. If the sales cross $30 million, IICT will get a 10 percent royalty.

IICT sometime back won the best patent award from the Indian Drug manufacturers Association (IDMA) for developing anti-cancer agents and now the institute has successfully gone for selling the patents.

Last year, IICT files for 113 patents: 29 in India and 84 abroad. It was granted 64 patents: 31 Indian and 33 foreign patents. Its scientists published 447 papers in recognized journals making it the best among the chemical science institutes of CSIR.

 

Elsevier honors young Indian scientists

The "Scopus-Young India Scientist Awards 2006", instituted by Elsevier, one of the world's largest publisher in STM - Science, Technology & Medicine, were awarded recently to honor and propel young research minds towards furthering Indian science.

The winners of the awards were Dr Sunil Kumar Manna from Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad and Dr Rajesh S Gokhale from National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi for Biological Sciences. Dr Kumar Biradha from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur for Chemistry, Dr Shankar Doraiswamy from National Institute of Oceanography, Goa for Earth sciences, Dr Giridhar Madras from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore for Engineering, Dr Abhay Gopal Bhatt from Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi for Mathematics, Dr Ganesan Venkatasubramanian from National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences, Bangalore for Medicine and Dr CP Safvan from Inter University Accelerator Centre, New Delhi and Dr Tarun Souradeep from Inter University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics, Pune for their work in Physics.

On the occasion, Dr RA Mashelkar, director general, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, delivered the keynote address. Frank Vrancken Peters, managing director of Elsevier gave away the awards to the winning scientists and remarked, "India has contributed so much to the world of science and it is an honor to be present amongst India's scientific elite. About Scopus, he said, "Scopus is the world's largest abstract and indexing database that covers over 88 percent of peer-reviewed scientific literature coming from over 15000+ journals. Scopus played a vital role in the selection process today because of two research tools embedded in the database-the Citation Tracker and Author Identifier".

The Award ceremony was graced by the country's leading scientists, researchers, academicians and key people from the departments of education, biotechnology, science and technology from across the country.

Rice exporters voice concern against GE rice field trials

Rice exporters voice concern against GE rice field trials

In the wake of open field trials of genetically-engineered (GE) rice being conducted in 10 locations across India, the All-India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) has urged the government to pay attention to the Chinese and US rice scandals sending financial ripples across the world, and commit to continue keeping Indian rice GE-free. Complacency in the comfort of today's GM-free status of Indian rice may prove very costly in the near future with these GM trials, the AIREA said.

"It is shocking and unfortunate that the government is allowing even small-scale field trials of GE rice in the Basmati-growing region. This is a matter of grave concern for all Basmati rice exporters from this region," said Brigadier Anil Adlakha, executive director of AIREA, at a joint press conference organized by Greenpeace, All-India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

"Indian rice farmers are getting a good price due to the export market. Any rejection or doubt on the GM-free status of Indian rice in the global market will break the back of a large section of these rice growers," said Yudhvir Singh, Delhi state convener of BKU.

 

Mashelkar lays down his Office

Dr RA Mashelkar, director-general, CSIR, who led the transformation of CSIR into a vibrant global R&D platform, will lay down his office after a distinguished tenure of over eleven years, on December 31, 2006. He transformed the organization into a user-focused and performance-driven R&D organization that laid great stress on innovation-centred development.

Winner of around 50 national and international awards, Dr Mashelkar has been well known for spearheading a new thinking in the direction of S&T in the post-liberalized India, for chairing about 12 high powered 'Mashelkar Committees' set up to look into diverse issues of national importance and for championing the cause of protection of traditional knowledge in India by fighting the 'Turmeric and Basmati battles,' which set a new paradigm in the protection of developing world's traditional knowledge heritage.

Dr Mashelkar is only the third Indian engineer to have been elected as Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), London, in the 20th Century. He was elected Foreign Fellow of US National Academy of Science (2005), only the eighth Indian scientist in over 140 years to have been so honoured. He was the first scientist from Asia to have won the 'Stars of Asia Award,' which was presented by George Bush (Sr.), former President of the US, on 16 November 2005. Over 25 universities have honored him with honorary doctorates, which include Universities of London, Salford, Pretoria, Wisconsin and Delhi.

 

Government to announce fund for innovative ideas

The government will announce a public fund for innovative ideas, of which 30 percent will be given as licensing fee or patent fee, 30 percent will go towards funding the project and the balance 40 percent will be given to the institute where the research takes place, announced Kapil Sibal, the Union minister of science and technology.

The Minister was speaking at a session on "Promoting Innovation in India: What Works Where" at the India Economic Summit, organized jointly by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), recently in New Delhi. The government cannot expect private industry to start investing in innovation without investing in the university research system, Sibal added.

Spelling out government initiatives to encourage innovation in the country, the minister said, "An existing scheme provides a grant of Rs 50 lakh to fund idea incubation and a loan of up to Rs 10 crore for commercializing the idea."

Sibal also mentioned that soon the government would launch a scheme that would enable women to contribute to building the wealth of the nation from the comfort of their homes.

Inviting young scientists from India to undertake collaborative research, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, science advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan and Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), Japan, who was present at the session, said, "Opening up the resources and collaborating with countries within the region can create an advantage for the region. Japan has strengths in areas such as water management and can collaborate with countries to find innovative solutions that will benefit a large number of people".

 

Ranbaxy, DST join hands in NDDR

Ranbaxy Laboratories has entered into a collaborative agreement with the department of science & technology (DST) in the area of New Drug Discovery Research (NDDR). Under the agreement, DST will provide financial support by way of soft loans to Ranbaxy, to undertake NDDR activity.

Dr Pradip Bhatnagar, vice president, NDDR, Ranbaxy, said, "This public-private partnership will enable research oriented companies like Ranbaxy to explore and develop innovative medicines at affordable costs and thereby combat diseases more effectively."

Dr Laxman Prasad, advisor, technology development and transfer, said that there are several programs in the department exclusively to encourage basic research across several areas of science and technology including pharma area. However, DPRP was launched to encourage public-private-partnership R&D projects. The government has expanded this program since 2004 to extend loans at a simple interest of three percent to pharma industry R&D projects.

 

Dubiotech, the biotech hub of the Middle East

The Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech), launched in February 2005, is the region's first and foremost science and business park dedicated entirely to the global life science industry.

DuBiotech aims to be the central hub for all life science industries for the Middle East. DuBiotech offers a vibrant environment for key players of such industries to thrive within their sphere of activity. The park offers drug discovery, R&D, manufacturing companies and industry specific service providers all the support needed to make their presence at DuBiotech an efficient and effective process. This includes suppliers of laboratory equipment and reagents, venture capital firms, design consultants, CROs, waste management firms and regulatory bodies.

With its strategic location and award winning design of the headquarter and state-of-the-art laboratory complexes, DuBiotech additionally offers a unique environment where companies can truly capture and serve their target market in a setting that reflects DuBiotech's dedication to exceptional infrastructure and practicality with an emphasis towards the requirements of life science companies.

A central focus of DuBiotech is research, and to support the drive toward setting a park dedicated to research excellence through its Foundation for Research and Innovation (FRI) focusing on medical, industrial, environmental and agricultural biotechnology.

DuBiotech is governed by world-class regulations in line with those applied to the top life science clusters globally and best international practices. The UAE Ministry of Health has also been a close partner to further enhance life science regulations at the federal level. Intellectual property (IP) protection is at the core of the life science industry. Considering the sensitive nature of work done within this industry, DuBiotech attaches considerable importance to Intellectual Property issues, As such, by working closely with the industry, federal authorities and world IP bodies, DuBiotech will ensure that existing IP laws and regulations are strictly enforced.

As part of TECOM's corporate social responsibility, all DuBiotech's buildings are to be classified as LEED certified 'Green' buildings. This extends not only to the headquarter and laboratory complexes, but also the manufacturing and community services buildings that will be part of the park. The headquarter building, once completed, is expected to be one of the largest 'Green' buildings globally. Our unique environment also includes an animal reserve spread over 5,00,000 sft, where some animal species indigenous to the region will roam freely.

 

"Biotechnology holds the key to feeding increasing numbers"

"By 2025, there will be another two billion mouths to feed. Farmers would need to at least double the production over the next 25 years to meet the increased demand," said Dr Arvind Kapur, managing director, Nunhems Seeds at an international conference of biotechnology, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry, (CII), Northern Region, in conjunction with Agro Tech 2006 recently.

Recalling that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called for a revamping of agriculture, Dr Kapur said the role of modern agriculture was to provide more and better food and better environment as plants too are affected by pollution. "Technology must not just be left in the lab but must be applied on land too. Development of technology has long gestation periods and involves a huge amount of money as gene technology takes time and involves several precise processes," he pointed out. Dr Kapur said the goal of FAO was to reduce the number of hungry mouths to half by 2015. Biotechnology holds the key to that, he said, adding that the biotechnology scenario in India was bright, with benefits accruing not only to farmers but also consumers and the environment.

"The problem is that 120 million hectares (out of 140 million hectares) of land under cultivation is degraded because of pH level, water holding capacity and salinity. Genetic poverty too is another limitation. To face this challenge, biotechnology will need to introduce more genes to control biotic stresses. Moreover emphasis would be given to product safety," Dr Kapur stated, adding that in the long term "we will have food that is less hazardous because of biotechnology."

Ajai Rana, All India Corn Crop Group Lead, Monsanto India, said, India ranked fifth in acreage but came 24th in productivity. "Population growth and increase in consumption will magnify the impact of agriculture on environment. India's current situation analysis shows that there is an increase in population, degradation of land. There is a tremendous yield increase but still low in major crops," elaborated Rana.

"Biotechnology can save nutrition in food and can conserve Omega-3, which promotes heart health. Opportunity for plant biotech in India is bright as it can lead to yield enhancement, insecticide usage reduction, drought and salinity tolerance and nutrition enhancement. This is going to be the future of agriculture," said Rana

Devinder Sharma, chairman, Forum for Biotechnology, urged Indian agri scientists to develop means to tap domestic potential. He exhorted them to "realize our own potential and utilize our natural resources so that farmers can be taken out of the vicious circle of poverty."

 

Panacea signs pact with Cambridge Biostability

Panacea Biotec, a leading vaccine producer in India, and Cambridge Biostability, the UK's pioneering developer of temperature-stable liquid vaccines, have entered into a joint venture agreement. Under the terms of the JV, Panacea Biotec has taken a 10 percent stake in Cambridge Biostability (CBL), for a total consideration of £1.935m.

In addition, Rajesh Jain, joint managing director of Panacea Biotec, has been appointed to the Board of CBL as non-executive director.

Cambridge Biostability has also signed a long-term licensing agreement with Panacea Biotec that could provide significant gross royalty income to CBL over the period. Under the agreement, Panacea Biotec is to in-license CBL's stable liquid technology to develop, produce and market a stable liquid version of pentavalent and other combination vaccines for the treatment of diptheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza B. This product will be unique in that it will not require storage under refrigeration or reconstitution before use.

The size of the worldwide market for the above vaccines is estimated to be in the region of 300 million doses per annum.

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