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Biocon's cancer drug heads for Pakistan

The Bangalore-based biotech major says it has inked a licensing agreement with Pakistani pharmaceutical company Ferozesons Laboratories, reports Gaurav Choudhury.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2007 18:01 IST
Gaurav Choudhury
Gaurav Choudhury

Biocon's "Made in India" cancer drug is set to cure cancer patients in Pakistan, at prices roughly 40 per cent cheaper than alternatives made by leading multinationals.

The Bangalore-based biotechnology major said on Thursday it had inked a licensing agreement with Pakistani pharmaceutical company Ferozesons Laboratories to market India's first indigenously produced cancer drug, BIOMAb EGFR, as it reported a 11 per cent rise in net profit at Rs 140 crore in the nine months ended December.

Pakistan's oncology market is valued at approximately $70 million. Globally, the size of monoclonal antibodies such as BIOMAb EGFR is estimated to be worth $15 billion and is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 30 per cent.

Biocon, founded nearly three decades ago by Chairwoman Kiran Mazumdar Shaw but now emerging as an innovative drug developer after decades as a producer of industrial enzymes and fat-busting statins, said the company was exploring similar agreements in the Middle-East and South Asian regions.

"We want to offer the best in class cancer drug in Pakistan and other parts of the region at extremely affordable rates. We are exploring similar agreements with drug manufacturing companies in the Gulf region and other countries of South Asia," Shaw told Hindustan Times.

"Monoclonal anti-body is emerging as the most important new class of drugs in cancer therapy. The alliance with Biocon will provide affordable targeted therapy for the patients of Pakistan", said Osman Khalid Waheed, President of Ferozesons Laboratories.

Biocon said it posted Rs 710 crore in revenues in the April-December period, up 23 per cent from Rs 578 crore in the same period of the previous year.

Besides its cancer drug, Biocon is also actively pursuing a big market for its insulin. It said it will set up an office in London and has initiated the process of introducing its insulin brand Insugen in the European markets.

"The European drug regulatory agency EMEA has recently issued the definitive guidelines for insulin products. We have initiated the process and expect to receive the regulatory approval within the next 18 months", said Shaw.

According to Globocan, a cancer research organisation, there are more than 25,000 new cases of head and neck cancer reported per year in Pakistan and the incidence is similar in other South Asian nations as well. The very large occurrence of head and neck cancer in the Indian subcontinent is largely attributed to the chewing and smoking of tobacco.

The cancer drug, which was launched in India in September last year, is engineered to specifically target and block the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) that proliferates cancer cells.

BIOMAb EGFR will be available as a unit carton of four vials. Biocon has initiated talks with several countries for regulatory clearance and plans to make the drug available across Europe and the US.

BIOMAb-EGFR targets the human EGFR, a type of protein found on the surface of both normal and cancer cells. Small proteins circulating in the blood, called epidermal growth factors (EGF), bind with the EGFR.

This binding stimulates certain biological processes within the cell to promote cell growth in a controlled manner. However, in many cells, EGFR is overproduced, leading to abnormal growth.

Biological agents, such as BIOMAb-EGFR disrupt and inhibit the EGFR signaling process. While refusing to divulge the drug's exact price, Shaw that it would be "40 per cent lower than drugs of similar category produced by multinational drug manufacturing companies".

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First Published: Jan 18, 2007 18:01 IST