• 7 February 2008
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ICGEB enters into an agreement with Emory University
The Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, USA, and ICGEB have entered in an agreement to collaborate and initiate a joint ICGEB-Emory vaccine center, dedicated to vaccine research, focused on infectious diseases like HIV, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C. The joint ICGEB-Emory vaccine center was inaugurated on January 14 by Kapil Sibal, the minister for science and technology and earth sciences. While Emory University will provide the funding for supporting scientific staff and other related expenses, and ICGEB will provide space, infrastructure and scientific expertise in vaccinology that already exists at the center.

Stressing on the need for bridging the gap between the development and the reach of the vaccine to those who need it, the minister said, "We are at one end of the spectrum. We can develop a vaccine but how do we ensure that it reaches those who need it? We need to see if we have delivery mechanisms and manufacturing capabilities for the same. So vaccine development is the beginning of the solution. It's not the end of the solution. The developing world must recognize that. We need to put other systems in place, because in the absence of that, those who need the vaccines are not going to get them."


Public-private partnership on India's first Basmati rice hybrid
Dr BR Barwale, chairman of the Barwale Foundation and winner of World Food Prize 1998, handed over royalty payment of Rs 20.26 lakh to Dr SA Patil, director, IARI in the presence of union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar. The payment was made on behalf of the Barwale Foundation and the Indian Foundation of Seed and Services Association (IFSSA) for making available high quality foundation seeds of Pusa RH-10, the first Basmati rice hybrid in the country, to the seedsmen. The royalty payment will augment the financial resources of IARI considerably and encourage them to enter into similar arrangement for other crops/ technologies in realization of the full potential of public-private partnership in India.

The IFSSA is a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative to bring together public sector crop researchers, private seed industry, seed growers and Indian farming communities to make available quality seeds and services to farmers. IFSSA hopes to fill the gaps with public sector agencies which have been developing promising hybrids but could not popularize and market them, resulting in poor adoption.

The core objectives of IFSSA are to link public-private seed sectors, provide value added services to seed industry which includes maintenance breeding, breeder and foundation seed multiplication and distribution, variety fingerprinting, seed purity tests and marker assisted breeding programs.

The Barwale Foundation (BF) and IFSSA have already entered into a MoU with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi for promoting Pusa RH-10, the country's first Basmati rice hybrid. IFSSA has been maintaining and producing the quality seeds of its parental lines (Pusa 6A and PRR 78) with trained seed growers by paying premium procurement price, for distribution to seedmen who would further produce quality seeds of Pusa RH-10 for marketing.


India, France to set up a joint research lab on sustainable chemistry
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR), India and French National Science Research Institute (CNRS) have entered into an agreement for the creation of a joint research laboratory on sustainable chemistry at interfaces. The CSIR-CNRS memorandum was signed recently in New Delhi by Catherine Brechignac, president CNRS, France and Prof. Samir K Brahmachari, director general, CSIR, in the presence of Valerie Pecresse, the French minister for higher education and research and Kapil Sibal, the minister of science and technology and earth Sciences.

A milestone of Indo-French partnership in the field of science and technology, the joint research laboratory will focus its research partnership in the areas of green chemistry targeting therapeutic agents for cancer and neuro disorders and protein interactions for targeting alternative drugs/biological systems.

The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, one of the CSIR laboratories will be implementing the program in partnership with the CNRS laboratory for molecular chemistry on molecular photonics and University of Rennes in France.


Intas to market products in GCC region
Intas Biopharmaceuticals Limited (IBPL), an integrated biopharmaceutical company, has firmed up plans to supply and market indigenously developed biotech products in Gulf.

Simon Daniel, chief executive (marketing), IBPL, said, "The GCC region, which has significant requirement of products, and services in the biotech segment is an important destination, keeping in view the market attractiveness for branded biologics, next only to the US and European markets. Being the only Indian biopharmaceutical manufacturing company with an EMEA certification and making inroads in the European market, IBPL's entry into GCC region is an important and critical step towards its expansion plans to reach new geographical regions across the globe."


Ocimum rated as top bioinformatics vendor
Ocimum Biosolutions (Ocimum) has been rated as the top vendor in bioinformatics by a ValueNotes/KnowGenix research report, "Bioinformatics Outsourcing in Life Sciences - India Opportunity." The report provides an incisive analysis of the Indian vendor space, and aims to provide insights into industry practices and trends, and the emerging opportunity in bioinformatics outsourcing/off-shoring. This study used a proprietary methodology to rate bioinformatics vendors in India. The vendor rating is based on weighted averages of various quantitative and qualitative factors, including reputation, size, service focus, financial strength, partnerships, recognition and certifications.

Anuradha Acharya, CEO, Ocimum Biosolutions, said, "We are very pleased with this recognition by ValueNotes. It is especially satisfying as this reflects on the rich functional expertise we have here at Ocimum. This also goes on to show how important it is to develop a strong bioinformatics competence which forms an essential backbone of the R&D process".


BTIC to provide a kickstart to new biotech ventures
Biotechnology Incubation Centre (BTIC) is the latest feature of a collaborative initiative between the Department of Biotechnology (DBT)), New Delhi, Government of Andhra Pradesh and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, to promote the advanced biotech business and entrepreneurship in India. The facility is located at the SP Biotech Park in the Genome Valley, Hyderabad. It harbors a great resource with all biotechnology tit bits and amenities on the spot which can be accessible to different biotech companies, academic research institutions, major universities, public and private hospitals for human development in the field of biotechnology. The world-class laboratory with healthy environment will offer biotech start-up companies to play a crucial role in biotechnology development, human resource development, awareness in Hyderabad and neighboring areas and encourage start of investment. This collaboration partnership will definitely accelerate the biotech industries and biotech initiative with high growth.

BTIC particularly focus on biomedical related businesses including biopharmaceuticals, herbal medicine, regenerative medicine, alternate medicine, health and dietary supplements, biocides, biomaterials, molecular and conventional diagnostics, the genome oriented customized medicine and biocosmetics production.

BTIC is established mainly to generate development of huge human resources required for biotech and pharmaceutical industries and for providing training in a furnished and equipped laboratory with an international environment. It also offers hand on practical training, proper handling of equipment, scientific environment and management services for start up companies. The aim is to provide the complete infrastructure for those companies and make their thoughts into a reality with reduced upfront investment.

In an environment specifically designed to nurture new biotech opportunities and businesses, BTIC provide early-stage companies an access to a world-class bioresearch infrastructure that includes state-of-the-art laboratories equipment, and business services, as well as the opportunity to connect with scientists from all over the world. The development and application of critical technologies for biotechnology commercialization and major collaborative projects are a primary focus of the center.

The BTIC through institutional support provides to new entrepreneurs information, consultancy, training, technology economic feasibility, project and product evaluation and IPR protection services. Another unique of feature of BTIC is the offer of Pre BTIC R & D (PBPG) support by the IICT at its premises manned by highly qualified scientists.

This new center is likely to become an attractive facility for entrepreneurs who could be interested in setting up biotechnology related industries in the country.


RFCL acquires Alved Pharma and Foods
RFCL, an ICICI Venture company announced its first inorganic acquisition in the veterinary healthcare space through a share purchase agreement with Chennai-based Alved Pharma and Foods. The agreement is for transfer of all key people, assets, brands including the name "Alved", all contracts including exports. Alved's long-standing manufacturing agreements with reputed contract manufacturing organizations will be further leveraged and consolidated into RFCL at a later date.

Alved is a market leader in southern India with good institutional and significant export business to the Middle East and African markets. Expected to close FY 08 with a Rs 180-million sales revenue and a healthy bottomline, this acquisition complements Vetnex (RFCL's animal healthcare business) in terms of product profile and distribution network and will enable Vetnex to have the largest footprint to the livestock farmers and veterinarians in domestic market.

The animal healthcare business of Vetnex will achieve a turnover of Rs 900 million for FY 08, registering a growth of almost 22 percent over the previous year, which is in line with company's objective to aim for double the market growth for all its businesses. Combined with sales revenue of Alved, RFCL's veterinary product portfolio will be in excess of Rs 1050 million and would be in a clear No.3 position in the animal health industry.

Sushil Mehta, managing director, RFCL, said, "We see significant upsides arising out of the synergies between Vetnex, our veterinary business division and Alved, which will augment the projected growth at a CAGR of 20 percent plus for the next 4-5 years for a consolidated animal healthcare business. The existing R&D strengths of Alved will be synergized with RFCL's integrated R&D and its newly built world-class manufacturing facility at Haridwar along with the proposed manufacturing unit in south at Irunkattukottai near Chennai to yield novel and high-value products for both domestic and global markets."


RFCL acquires Godrej Medical Diagnostics
RFCL has acquired the business division of Godrej Medical Diagnostics along with its people, brands, assets, liabilities and all current principal alliance partnerships including QBC Diagnostics, USA, Asia Gen Corporation, Taiwan and Uritest Medical Electronic Co. Ltd., China.

The acquired business of Godrej Medical Diagnostics closing in the current financial year at Rs 120 million and depicting a growth projection of 25 percent for next 3-4 years will be merged and operate as an integrated portfolio within Diagnova, the diagnostics and biomedical sciences division of RFCL.

Sushil Mehta, managing director, RFCL, said, "Diagnova has taken the first step towards taking diagnostics to the physicians' desk, a market segment that had hitherto remained largely unexplored. We will retain the business structure and functioning of Godrej Medical Diagnostics and strengthen it going forward to provide continued excellence in service to its customers".


Biocon Q3 net up on enzyme unit sale
Bangalore-based Biocon has reported a net profit of Rs 292 crore for the third quarter ended December 31, 2007 - a six-fold increase over the corresponding quarter last fiscal on account of sale of its enzymes unit.

The company had a one-time exceptional pre-tax gain of Rs 330 crore from the sale of the enzymes unit. Sales for the quarter fell 3.7 percent year-on-year to Rs 237 crore.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director, Biocon, said: "We have sustained both revenue and profit growth post the divestment of our enzymes business. We continue to increase R&D investments in the firm belief that our innovation led business strategy will deliver rich dividends to our shareholders in the foreseeable future."

An important event this quarter has been the board's decision to establish a committee to take the necessary steps to list Biocon's wholly-owned subsidiary Syngene on the stock exchanges during FY2008-09.


Chinese firm opens subsidiary in India
China Yingxia International, a leading provider in the nutraceutical industry engaged in the development, manufacture and distribution of organic nutritional food products, supplements, and personal care products in China, announced that it had formally established a wholly-owned Indian subsidiary that will focus on selling and distributing the company's products.

Jiao Yingxia, chairman, China Yingxia International, said, "We believe there is great potential in the Indian market for our products. Indians are increasingly favoring a healthy lifestyle and they have the income to buy our products. We sent our own team to India in March 2007 to research the potential and we liked what we saw. We believe there is particular potential in selling our organic rice products which not only taste good but which studies in China have shown reduce symptoms of certain diseases such as diabetes."


Biocon Q3 net up on enzyme unit sale
Bangalore-based Biocon has reported a net profit of Rs 292 crore for the third quarter ended December 31, 2007 - a six-fold increase over the corresponding quarter last fiscal on account of sale of its enzymes unit.

The company had a one-time exceptional pre-tax gain of Rs 330 crore from the sale of the enzymes unit. Sales for the quarter fell 3.7 percent year-on-year to Rs 237 crore.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director, Biocon, said: "We have sustained both revenue and profit growth post the divestment of our enzymes business. We continue to increase R&D investments in the firm belief that our innovation led business strategy will deliver rich dividends to our shareholders in the foreseeable future."

An important event this quarter has been the board's decision to establish a committee to take the necessary steps to list Biocon's wholly-owned subsidiary Syngene on the stock exchanges during FY2008-09.


US health minister visits Bharat Biotech's facilities
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL) announced the visit of Michael O Leavitt, secretary of health and human services, US Department of health and human services, to its facilities at Genome Valley in Hyderabad. Michael Leavitt was sworn into office during January 2005 as the secretary of the US department of health and human services, one of the largest civilian departments in the US federal governments, with 67,000 employees and 25 percent of the US federal budget. Leavitt was instrumental in spearheading the US's health diplomacy initiative aimed at improving the health of Central Americans and bringing the countries of North and Central America closer together. Prior to his current service, Leavitt was head of the US Environmental Protection Agency and served three terms as governor of Utah, which has been recognized as one of the best managed states in the US. Governor Leavitt was also elected as the chairman as the US governors association.


David Baltimore delivers Cell Press-TnQ lecture
David Baltimore, the American biologist and co-recipient of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, delivered the Cell Press-TnQ lecture in Bangalore on January 16-17, 2008.

In 1975, at the age of 37, while on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for the discovery of reverse transcriptase, which transcribes RNA into DNA and is essential for the reproduction of retroviruses such as HIV. Baltimore has had a profound influence on the US policy concerning DNA research and HIV AIDS.

Introducing the great biologist, Prof. P Balaram, director, IISc, said, "Dr Baltimore is one of the most influential and impressive figures of modern biology".

The topic for the lecture was "Micro RNAs in Inflammation and Cancer" and "New Avenues to Health". Dr Baltimore also discussed some of his works and programs against cancer and HIV going on in his laboratory using immune system engineering.


Prof. Sidney Altman to open Bangalore Bio 2008
The Government of Karnataka and Karnataka Vision Group on Biotechnology announced that Nobel laureate Prof. Sidney Altman will deliver the inaugural keynote address at the Bangalore Bio 2008, the flagship event in biotech in the country.

Bangalore Bio 2008 will be held from April 24-26, 2007 at the Bangalore International Exhibition Center on Tumkur Road in Bangalore.

"We are extremely delighted that Prof. Altnam will be a part of Bangalore Bio 2008 and deliver the inaugural keynote address, said MN Vidyashankar, secretary to government, Department of IT, BT and Science & Technology, government of Karnataka. "His participation truly affirms the growing stature of Bangalore Bio globally and we believe his address will evoke many young brains to take up research more seriously," he added.


GVK Bio's clinical pharmacology unit granted major accreditations
The clinical pharmacology unit of GVK Biosciences received approvals from all major regulatory bodies globally including USFDA, AFSAAPS, WHO and ANVISA. The approvals open global markets to GVK Bio's clients in the US, Europe and Latin American countries in addition to the domestic sector.

Manni Kantipudi, president of GVK Bio stated, "The approvals validate GVK Bio's high quality systems and practices".

As a first step, GVK Bio has expanded and built a new state-of-the-art bioanalytical facility in addition to the existing one to cater to the growing business demands. GVK Bio is also setting up its own clinical laboratory and aims for an early accreditation.

"GVK Bio aims to be a full service CRO offering services from BA/BE to Phase I through Phase IV clinical trials", said GV Sanjay Reddy, managing director, GVK Bio.

Set up in 2001, GVK Bio started offering bioavailability/bioequivalence(BA/BE) services in 2004 and in a very short time received major accreditations from international regulatory authorities such as ANVISA (Brazil) and AFSAAPS (French) and the USFDA. The USFDA has inspected the facilities twice and approved several BA/BE studies conducted by GVK Bio. The BA/BE facility was also inspected and cleared by WHO after a recent audit of one of the studies. GVK Bio's BA/BE centre was requalified by ANVISA (Brazilian regulatory body) for the third consecutive year.


FBAE Foundation Day lecture series held
The Foundation of Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE) organized its Foundation Day lecture on January 25 in Bangalore.

Delivering a lecture on GM crops, Prof. Kochhar, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Mohali, Punjab, said, "Genetic modification is the most revolutionary of all revolutions throughout the entire existence of humankind. We are in the midst of a biotech revolution and science and ethics has always been a problematic issue." The world's two technologically most advanced entities, the US and Europe, should narrow down their differences on GM agriculture. If the two take a common stand, the rest of the world will have no difficulty in falling in line, he added.

Prof. MC Gayathri, molecular biology unit, Bangalore University, delivered a lecture on "The challenges for maintaining quality standards in biotech education and training".

Winding up the Foundation Day lecture series, Prof. C Kameswara Rao said, "The FBAE will continue to grow and shape itself into a scientifically credible organization to inform public through debate and discourse on the risks and benefits of modern biotechnology."

The FBAE was conceived by a group of like-minded academicians and biologists with the sole objective of propagating factual and comprehensive scientific information about modern biotechnology in the face of world wide opposition to technology deployment through a wanton misinformation campaign. The organization was formed on January 18, 2001 and has functioned ever since as a registered non-profit organization to spread biotechnology awareness.


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