The United States and Japan were the most
interesting regions for so-called "biosimilar" developments by Lupin
and the company is actively seeking partners with the right drug
development expertise, Nilesh Gupta told Reuters in an interview.
Making copies of biotech medicines is emerging as a hot new business
area for Indian pharmaceutical companies, which are seeking to move
up the value curve by producing more complex and higher-margin
Rival Dr.Reddy's Laboratories Ltd, for example, already has a deal
in place to develop biosimilars with Germany's Merck KGaA, while
Biocon Ltd has a similar tie-up with U.S.-based Mylan Inc.
Lupin, the country's No. 4 drugmaker by revenue, is entering the
fray with a eye on the prize of selling cheaper copies of injectable
biotech drugs for diseases such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis
in developed markets.
"We've been out there talking to companies for partnering. I think
we probably see it as a product-by-product partnership rather than a
broad partnership," said Gupta, son of company founder Desh Bandhu
Lupin has in recent years developed from a maker of simple "me-too"
generic pills into a company that also produces higher-margin
branded products and more complex generics. It has already created
and developed a basket of 10 biosimilars, five of which are in
advanced stages of development.
Biosimilar versions of cancer drugs such as Roche Holding AG's
Rituxan and Johnson & Johnson's arthritis drug Remicade are within
reach for the generics industry as patents start to expire.
Healthcare information firm IMS Health believes the global
biosimilars market could be worth between $11 billion and $25
billion in 2020.
Inhaled drugs to treat asthma and chronic lung disease are other
examples of difficult-to-make generic medicines where Gupta is
betting his firm's know-how can give it an edge in a competitive
[to top of second column]
The two big prizes for generic manufacturers are GlaxoSmithKline
Plc's Advair and AstraZeneca Plc's Symbicort. Both are dry powder
inhalers that present a manufacturing challenge to companies trying
to make copies.
Gupta said Lupin would seek a partner to develop the inhaler
device needed to deliver these medicines.
He acknowledged he faced some formidable opponents, including local
rivals such as Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Dr. Reddy's and
Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd, as well as international groups such
as Mylan, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Novartis AG unit
"There are about seven or eight players who are working for the same
product," he said. "It will be an interesting space and I don't
think more than two or three players will make it to the finish
(Additional reporting by Sumeet
Chatterjee; editing by David Holmes)
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