Madhumathi D.S.

Bangalore, Sept 10

Biocon Ltd is gearing up for an oncology foray as it readies its proprietary cancer drug for the market.

A new dedicated business unit called the Oncotherapeutics Division has been set up to handle at least 8-10 upcoming cancer and anti-inflammatory products.

Most of these are co-developed with Cuban partner, CIMAB.

Biocon also plans to in-license new cancer molecules, according to Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director.

Oncology and anti-inflammation are its thrust area along with diabetes and cardiovascular segments, she added.

"We are the first Indian company to start a division based on its own proprietary molecule: BIOMAb EGFR. We plan to extend this to a basket of other proprietary molecules that we will in-license and co-develop," she said in a reply to

Business Line

.

The other unit is the Cardio-Diabetes division.

Cleared in July for marketing, BIOMAb EGFR is based on a globally emerging popular drug band called monoclonal antibodies or MAbs.

The drug for head and neck cancer is to be extended to other cancers.

BIOMAb is due to be launched in the second half of 2007.

Biocon's most significant effort will be towards a cancer vaccine that could be a world first (but to be marketed only regionally); two molecules are under development and currently being tested against non-small cell lung cancer.

Globally, MAbs are a popular biological tool against cancer based on the body's natural disease-fighting mechanism, but those available in the country are not said to be affordable by all. By 2010, these drugs are projected to grow into a $13-billion market.

In India, these biotech drugs will be pushing for a place alongside the ruling chemo drugs worth around Rs 600 crore.

Biocon, one of the few and early MAbs players, hopes to take 10-20 per cent of this segment.

Among Biocon's oncology pipeline are drugs for T-cell lymphoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, inflammatory diseases, a vaccine for the deadly epidermal growth factor (EGF)-cancer and another vaccine for transforming growth factor(TGF)-cancer.

The cancer range will be manufactured at Biocon Biopharmaceuticals, a 51:49 venture started with CIMAB in 2003.

Biocon has the territorial rights to market these drugs across the sub-continent.

The MAbs facility, claimed to be the country's first and Asia's largest such facility, has seen an investment of Rs 85 crore, though Ms Mazumdar-Shaw said that Biocon's total oncology investment "easily exceeds Rs 250 crore if you were to include our investments in technology acquisition, licensing, plant and clinical development."

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 11, 2006)
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