Our Bureau

New Delhi, March 11

IT'S finally official. Ending months of speculation, Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd on Friday said that its Research and Development (R&D) head, Dr Rajinder Kumar, has put in his papers and will be returning to the UK.

The company has been reiterating its commitment to R&D and doubled its spend from $13 million (Rs 56.5 crore) in October-December 2003 to $26 million (Rs 113 crore) in the same period in 2004.

Dr Kumar left GlaxoSmithKline Plc to take over as Ranbaxy's R&D head from Dr Rashmi Barbhaiya in July last year. In an official statement, the company has said that it has "reluctantly agreed to his request due to personal circumstances. In due course, he will be invited to join Ranbaxy's R&D Advisory Council''.

Dr Brian Tempest, CEO and Managing Director, said, "We acknowledge the role that Dr Rajinder Kumar has played in institutionalising the R&D regimen, and in particular the clinical processes at Ranbaxy."

Meanwhile, the company has decided to adopt a dual strategy for R&D by separating drug discovery and generics, new drug delivery system (NDDS), and drug development. This it feels would enable greater focus and rigour for success.

While Dr Kasim Mookhtiar will lead the drug discovery team, Dr Vijay Batra will lead the generics, NDDS and drug development research effort of the company. Dr Batra has been working on the anti-malaria molecule as well as the development of atorvastatin (cholesterol busting drug).

The two new R&D heads will be reporting to Dr Tempest, who said that the new structure is designed to bring into sharper focus the unique needs of drug discovery and generics research, while emphasising both equally.

Analysts tracking the sector have expressed concern about the top-level changes in R&D. "While the company has been talking about focusing on R&D, the frequent movement of scientists sends contrary signals," they said. Ranbaxy's stock fell by a marginal 1.23 per cent on the Bombay Stock Exchange to close at Rs 1,069.50.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 12, 2005)
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