Therapeutic Dose: Riding the Indian Wave

Ranbaxy Laboratories is challenging stereotypes and changing perceptions.

By Paul Thomas, Managing Editor

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India is changing the global business and industrial landscape more than we can imagine, says Jim Pinto, renowned industrial analyst and self-proclaimed futurist. What drives India is not cheap labor, Pinto says, but hunger — hunger for jobs and higher wages, but also for science and innovation. “You can’t simulate hunger,” said Pinto, a Bangalore native, in a recent talk.

The Indian hunger, Pinto notes, includes a healthy appetite for chemistry and engineering. A direct beneficiary is the subcontinent’s pharmaceutical industry, but drug companies worldwide profit, too; by some estimates, one in 10 researchers in the American pharmaceutical industry is of Indian descent.

What India did for the IT world — contributing massive intellectual capital, effecting cross-pollination of ideas and technologies — it is now doing for the drug industry, experts like Pinto believe. (In the article, "Less Is More in API Process Development," Girish Malhotra discusses how chemists in the developing world are advancing API process development.)

Riding the wave is Ranbaxy Laboratories, Ltd., which is striving to become a major player in global pharmaceuticals. By 2007, it hopes to have $2 billion in annual sales, and to devote 10% of that amount to its research budget — creeping toward levels that serious, research-based firms commit.

Ranbaxy is challenging the notion that an Indian company must be dependent upon low-wage workers, a maker of generics rather than branded drugs, an imitator rather than innovator, an adversary of Big Pharma.

“We are not an Indian company,” says Chuck Caprariello, Ranbaxy’s VP of corporate communications and government affairs. “Our origins are in India, but we are truly a global pharmaceutical company.” As proof, only five of its 15 manufacturing locations are within India. It has five facilities in the U.S.: one in Gloversville, N.Y. manufacturing liquid formulations, and four sites comprising 230,000 square feet in central New Jersey that manufacture and distribute solid dosage medications.

While embracing the culture that has nurtured it, Ranbaxy is distancing itself from the limiting stereotypes, just or unjust, that surround the Indian industry. Yes, it’s a “generics company,” but its branded products dominate the domestic market in India and are sold in other global markets. The company has six NCEs in various stages of development for the U.S. market, Caprariello says.

The company is also partnering with major pharmaceuticals. It has an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline to develop drugs from GSK’s molecule library. A few years ago, it developed a once-a-day tablet of Bayer’s Cipro, then licensed it back and earns royalties from the business agreement.  The new-and-improved Cipro proved to skeptics — Bayer included — that Ranbaxy knows quality and innovation, Caprariello says.

And Ranbaxy seeks to make a difference in the world, not just a profit. It has received tentative approval from FDA for two of its HIV drugs, generic versions of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Viramune (nevirapine) and GSK’s Epivir (lamivudine), making them available for purchase under President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It is also working with the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) to develop and distribute novel antimalarial agents.

Ranbaxy’s story isn’t one of East vs. West, David vs. Goliath, nor developing world vs. developed. It’s one of globalization and a company taking advantage of the resources it has at its disposal — whether Indian or not. Its CEO, Brian Tempest, is British, and a former GSK executive.

Ranbaxy is riding the Indian wave, but in its own way, on its own terms. But stereotypes are not easily dispelled.

“We are always proving ourselves,” Caprariello says.

India’s impact upon the pharmaceutical world, while not new, is perhaps underestimated. That will change, if companies like Ranbaxy, and those one in 10 researchers, have anything to say about it.

 

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