Updated on 13 May 2013
In 1996, I made a presentation to Mr Chandrababu Naidu, former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, on the need to have a biotech knowledge park. We requested for land from Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC) to set up only knowledge-based industries that do not pollute the environment. I succeeded in convincing the government to pass an order for setting up the knowledge corridor, which is now named as Genome Valley, Hyderabad. Our $2.5 million (Rs12.5 crore) hepatitis vaccine plant was the first to come up in this life sciences cluster, followed by the ICICI Knowledge Park. Today, Hyderabad is one-of-the-most the most favored destination for biotech companies in India, constituting around 50 percent of the biotech industry in the country.
When we set out to establish Bharat Biotech, we asked ourselves the question, "What does it take to be a leader in the life science sector?" We saw opportunities in emerging infectious diseases as a sector to focus upon. There were several reasons for this, one being MNCs with commercial interests were primarily not interested in regional markets for region specific diseases like chikungunya, typhoid, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and Chandipura. As a nation we made very little effort to ascertain the economic loss to the country in the event of a major epidemic which pushed my determination even further. Needless to say, this became the mission and vision of Bharat Biotech. In January 1998, former Indian president, Dr Abdul Kalam, launched Revac-B. Our hepatitis vaccine was the first product to roll out from our plant. We supplied 35 million doses for the National Immunization Program to the government of India at a price of 20 cents (Rs 10) per dose. Today, we are one-of-the-largest producers of hepatitis B vaccines, with supplies to over 50 countries including Africa, Latin America, Pakistan, and to the UNICEF.
Initiatives in regional diseases gave us leadership status in the sector and the confidence that we have the capabilities to develop novel vaccines just like any other global multinational companies. In 2001, we made a commitment to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and supply a novel rotavirus vaccine at $1-a-dose. Currently, it is undergoing phase III clinical trials for efficacy in approximately 8,000 subjects, which is one of the largest ever clinical trials conducted in India.
In 2004, we introduced India's first recombinant human epidermal growth factors for I and II degree burns, skin grafts, and diabetic foot ulcers, called Regen-D. We simultaneously launched our second bio-therapeutic product, Zelect oral rehydration salts. In February 2009, Bharat Biotech launched Comvac-5, a single-shot pentavalent combination vaccine which contains the first indigenously developed and manufactured haemophilus influenza type-b (Hib) in combination with hepatitis B vaccine and DPT.
Currently, we have two promising programs, a third generation typhoid conjugate vaccine that can be given to infants and a Japanese encephalitis vaccine with high immunity. We also have a malaria vaccine, currently in a development stage being developed in partnership with International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB). Our IND Rota is the second Investigational New Drug Application (INDA) filed in India after Lysostaphin. Our mission is to serve the seven billion emerging market population that are affected by region-specific diseases with novel and affordable vaccines that can serve every section of society.