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Saturday 22nd October 2016

East-West drug deals on the rise

15th September 2008

Top Indian and Chinese drugs companies are increasingly playing a role in the global research and development of new drugs, teaming up with big pharma.


Western executives have flocked to science parks in India's science parks to find partners to develop new drugs, kicking off a process that could start a major trend of collaborative partnerships in Asia.

Indian pharmaceutical Jubilant has recently signed deals with Eli Lilly, Amgen and Forest Laboratories, while Eli Lilly and Merck have also teamed up with India's Piramal.

In signing these deals, top Western companies hope to take promising compounds discovered by the multinationals and run low-cost testing procedures in Indian and Chinese labs in the quest for marketable drugs.

Recent discoveries in gene-based medicine have left the industry groping for ways to develop the revolutionary products they might lead to.

Acquisition of genetics labs is one way to do this, as in Roche's US$44 billion bid to purchase Genentech in July.

But they are also offering to share some intellectual property with Indian and Chinese companies in return for savings they gain from outsourcing development there.

Pfizer, AstraZeneca and others have already cut thousands of R&D jobs in the US, which is likely to attract criticism that yet another industry is exporting US jobs. But the result could be much lower prices for new medicines.

In China and India, a PhD biochemist costs a fifth of what they would in the West. China has a particularly large pool of talent in this area.

Experts also say China could yield a flood of potentially important therapies.

So far, no new drugs have been produced through such East-West collaborations. But standards have risen very fast in Indian labs in a very short space of time.

The country has been making reverse-engineered generic medicines since the government announced it would not honour Western patents in the 1970s. Indian pharma firms Cipla and Ranbaxy Labs followed suit in the 1990s with generic AIDS drugs at just US$1 a dose, revolutionising access to drugs for HIV patients in the poorest nations.

Indian pharma says its goal is to stamp out Third World diseases, not to accumulate warehouses full of knock-off merchandise, however, and they recognise that collaboration with Western companies is the only way forward.


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