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Use new tech to improve health standards, Kalam tells scientists

P.T. Jyothi Datta

Aurangabad , Sept. 24

IT was a meeting of scientific minds, when the President, Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, met the 400-odd scientists at the Wockhardt Biotech Park in Aurangabad.

And while the interactive, though brief, session saw the President take queries from the scientists on "what it takes to make a mission successful" - the President touched on issues such as leadership, challenges faced by the domestic pharma industry and the issue of spurious drugs.

He also cautioned them regarding HIV/AIDS, malaria and cardiac-diseases, the three main diseases that the country would have to deal with in 2020.

Further, he urged the scientific community to leverage technologies such as stem-cell research and nano-technology to improve the standards of healthcare in the country.

At the inauguration of Wockhardt's Biotech Park, the President had urged the domestic pharma industry to be competitive, cost-effective and "just in time", in the post-2005 regime when product-patents come into effect.

Meanwhile, speaking to newspersons before the event, the Wockhardt Chairman, Mr Habil Khorakiwala, underlined his company's biotech commitment. The Rs 200-crore biotech park comprises six dedicated manufacturing plants and is India's largest bio-pharmaceutical complex, he said.

Wockhardt expects to clock biotech exports of about Rs 100 crore by December 2005, he added.

These projections were made on the export of three key biotech drugs - erythropoietin (for kidney-related applications), recombinant insulin and Hepatitis B Vaccine, he elaborated.

The estimated Rs 1,300-crore Wockhardt has already received approvals from regulatory agencies of 10 countries in South-East Asia, Central Asia, South America and Africa and expects more approvals in the next 18 months, he said.

The company has earmarked a research and development spend of Rs 80 crore this year, focusing on pharmaceuticals (new drug delivery systems), biotechnology and drug discovery, he added.

New delivery devices in insulin, such as the insulin pen were on the anvil for the local market. Wockhardt's Wosulin (recombinant insulin), launched last year had led to a 40 per cent drop in insulin prices, he said.

Similarly, a price drop had been seen in the domestic erythropoietin segment, with Wockhardt's entry, he said.

Wockhardt has made a technology breakthrough on Glargine, a new generation advance on insulin.

"We will initiate Phase III clinical trials with Glargine and expect to introduce it in India in the next 18 months," he said.

Also on the anvil are cancer-drug GCSF, slated for launch by end 2005 and it's compound WCK771, on which it was conducting clinical trials.

It is slated for launch in 2008. Interferon, for the immune defence system in the body, is expected next year, he said.

Kalam against human cloning

"I AM against human cloning," said President Kalam, recounting his response to a group of children who had asked for his thoughts on the subject.

Referring to the "genetic engineering of God," he said that he did not want to interfere with the process. "I would have liked to be a bio-scientist, but now it is too late," he told the scientific community, much to their delight.

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