Updated on 1 August 2016
Mr Chandru Chawla, head of Cipla New Ventures
Singapore: Although currently small and focused on few diseases, the biosimilars opportunity is all set to grow, thanks to the unprecedented patent cliff and rising healthcare costs. Biosimilars are a clear potential for players in emerging Asian countries as there is a need to broaden healthcare coverage with limited budgets.
Several Asian companies have been increasing their focus on biosimilars, terming it a long term prospect. Recently, Indian pharmaceutical giant Cipla announced that its proposed biotech subsidiary in South Africa will invest just over R1.3 billion into the country's first state-of-the-art biotech manufacturing facility, for the production of biosimilars. As per the company's release, the facility will have the necessary design capacity and capabilities and will seek regulatory approvals to supply both to the local market and to export into the rest of Africa and Europe.
The factory, which will be located in the Department of Trade and Industries Special Economic Zone of Dube Tradeport in Durban, will manufacture biosimilar drugs made from living organisms and used in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. At full capacity, the facility will create up to 300 jobs, primarily in the engineering and biological science fields. This facility will run independently.
This is not Cipla's first foray in the African market. In 2013, Cipla had acquired South African drug firm MedPro, one of its first large foreign acquisition and has been ramping up presence in the African nation since then. Last September, Cipla had made an announcement that all its biologic business will be consolidated under Cipla Biotech, which will focus on drug development in cancer, respiratory, and diabetes treatments.
The company also said in its release that, in South Africa, people without access to private insurance cannot afford biologic medicine due to the very high prices of the innovator molecules. Currently about 1-in-50 patients in Africa have access to biologic medication. Cipla further added that with this new venture they are striving to reduce this number to about 1-in-5 cancer patients through the production and supply of biosimilar medication at an affordable price.
BioSpectrum Asia Magazine spoke to Mr Chandru Chawla, head of Cipla New Ventures to elaborate on Cipla's plans for the facility, the biosimilar opportunities, challenges and their expansion plans for the future.