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Saturday, Feb 08, 2003

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Australian biotech cos keen on joint ventures

P.T. Jyothi Datta


THE Australian biotech industry, estimated to be over A$1 billion, is keen on forging an alliance with its Indian counterparts in terms of manufacturing, clinical trials and joint research and development.

Dr Peter Riddles, Director and President, AusBiotech Ltd (the apex body for the Australian biotech industry), told Business Line that Australian companies were strong on the R&D front and were looking for partners in manufacturing and clinical trials. About 38 per cent of the Australian biotech activity is in the pharmaceutical and therapeutic segments and about 10 per cent is in agriculture, he pointed out.

On the worldwide debate in favour of biotech pharma products and against genetically modified food, he said biotechnology across the board was gaining acceptance in Australia, since the Government had put in place a regulatory framework to monitor the products that went into the market.

Like other multinationals looking to set up shop in India, intellectual property rights issues are a prime concern with Australian biotech firms too, points out Mr Chris Gibson, Major Projects Manager, Isonet, a non-profit organisation financially supported by the Government to facilitate Australian manufacturers in doing business abroad. Echoing his sentiments, Dr Riddles pointed out that tighter and transparent norms would help instil faith in companies wanting to do business.

Further, he pointed out that Indian companies had also sought help in commercialisation of their R&D efforts. Interestingly, AusBiotech, formerly the Australian Biotechnology Association, also facilitates the commercialisation of Australian bioscience in the international marketplace.

Australian firms doing business in India include JRH biosciences and Gribbles. JRH manufactures and markets a range of products for cell culture, research, immunohematology and human diagnostics. The range is supplied to local and international research institutions, universities, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and pathology laboratories. Gribbles has a joint venture company with Dr Reddy's Laboratories to set up a network of path-labs in India.

Trade Minister to visit India

Though it may take some time before preliminary discussions between companies fructify into a formal alliance, Ms Elizabeth Sullivan, representing the Australian Trade Commission, said it had strengthened Indo-Australian ties.

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