Saturday, July 28, 2007

Futuristic Healthcare Technology and Pharma Marketing

The impact of technology at the grass root level

Technology has a great impact on the health scenario at the grass root level. For eg. I remember conversing with a doctor during a field call, sometime early 1990s. He was saying that two product introductions revolutionized the health scenario in India. The first was the mass production and easy availability of packaged drinking water–this reduced the incidence of gastrointestinal infections and the second one with a huge impact on the incidence and severity of GI infections was the drug ciprofloxacin. He reiterated that these two products changed the patient profile in his practice.

Technology has significant impact on the ground reality, thereby altering disease profiles in clinical practices.

Impact of IT on healthcare

The greatest advances of IT will be felt on delivery of healthcare. Some of the futuristic happenings would be:

Right now there is a clear cut distinction between healthcare product manufacturers and marketers, and the healthcare delivery systems (manned by healthcare practitioners). Pharma companies belong to the former category and hospitals/clinics are significant parts of the healthcare delivery systems in society. IT will bridge the two together leading to blurring of the borders. Thus, we would have a future scenario where Pfizer would be involved in storing lipid profiles of patients in a secure web site in an electronic format (accessible via a password through internet and WAP-mobile services). Thus, Pfizer would help diagnose cases of hyperlipidemia, store e-records, and give access to these to authorized personnel.

The second impact of IT would be a new breed of professionals or companies – the electronic healthcare information providers (or healthcare counsel providers). These healthcare and IT savvy individuals would help integrate the vast database of health, disease, and treatment related information (including prevention) and would aid therapy givers give the best integrated therapy for an individual’s disease condition.

The third impact of IT would be in the form of Pharma companies or associated companies creating and maintaining electronic records of genetic profiles of individuals and aiding therapy givers give the best therapy based on the genetic tendencies of patients.

The fourth impact of IT would be social media assisted word-of-mouth dissemination of healthcare information tips and experiences. These are very powerful influencers.

While there are many individuals like the guys at, and companies big and small working on the concept of web enabled healthcare delivery, one can expect some big bang products in this arena from Google health for the following reasons:

a) They have the best of people in the world focusing their efforts on this sector.
b) Google offers an intrapreneurial climate - a prerequisite for slingshot developments.

A convergence of a different kind

Today the primary focus of Pharma companies in India is the trade calls (individual doctors practicing in clinics) and then follows the hospitals. However, IT, capital formation, availability of qualified personnel, development of Medicities, corporate hospitals, and better travel and communication facilities will create a convergence of a different kind.

What will the convergence be like?

a) The convergence will be of various silos of treatment procedures (eg. physiatry, physiotherapy, Allopathy, Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Accupressure, Chinese and Tibetan traditional systems) under one roof in a Medicity. The barriers between the therapy silos will progressively collapse.
b) There will be convergence of IT enabled healthcare services, Pharma companies, and healthcare delivery systems (of whom the healthcare practitioner will be a part of). For eg. Pfizer would probably be involved in aiding Pharma R & D-manufacture-marketing, diagnosis, e-records, e-genetic profile records, and partnering healthcare personnel in treatment regimens. Verily, Pharma companies would be offering a package deal. An Indian Pharma company well positioned to go into this orbit of healthcare delivery is Wockhardt – an umbrella enterprise - researching, manufacturing and marketing pharmaceuticals; Wockhardt also owns diagnostic facilities and corporate hospitals.

However, the greatest contribution of IT and other futuristic technologies will be preventive healthcare and health consciousness.

Blogpost put up from nearby cybercenter.

Saturday, July 21, 2007



The human genome project has opened a new vista in therapeutics. Clinical genomics (or medical genomics) and bioinformatics has the promise of ushering a new era in healthcare. The advent of personalized medicine based on genetic profiling will not be a fast forward science, its commercialization is expected to be slow, yet sure. There are a number of ethical issues that need to be continually resolved to take personalized medicine forwards. Yet the start of an era of personalized medicine, an offshoot of the human genome project is round the corner.

One can say that it was the discovery of the gene and further characterization of the nucleic acids that gave genesis to genomics (thus knowing the susceptibility of an individual to gene-related diseases) and therapeutic approaches based on the genetic profile (personalized medicine).

Puzzling to pharma marketers

Although it is apparent that genomics is leading to an era of personalized medicine, one wonders how it will affect pharma product promotion, healthcare marketing and healthcare practice? To get an insight in to the emerging opportunity of pharma marketing in an era of personalized medicine, let us read the following futuristic hypothetical example of a MR – to – doctor product promotional experience:

Medical Representative: “Greetings to you doctor. As you agree, genetic history evaluation has revolutionized the modern approach to healthcare. Today, genetic history evaluation can recognize the susceptibility of individuals to chronic ailments like Alzheimer’s disease – senile dementia, restless legs syndrome, diabetes mellitus Type 2 and autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Doctor, we are happy to announce the results of a first of its kind large double blind randomized crossover clinical trial – the gold standard – for the efficacy and safety of Brahmi (like Brahmi Himalaya) in the preventive management of senile dementia. In this multicentric multi-racial clinical trial conducted at different centers – Manila, Singapore, Bangalore, Chennai, Dubai, Lisbon, Ankarra, Baghdad, London, Chicago, and New York, on 25,000 healthy volunteers with a genetic susceptibility to senile dementia ,were involved. Of these 13,500 were given Brahmi, one capsule a day at bedtime. The preventive dose of Brahmi was selected based on authoritative classical Ayurvedic references including Bhavaprakasha Nighantu. The standardized extract in the capsule is made by a proprietary technology. The remaining of the patients were on placebo.

It is interesting to note that all the volunteers were given a special wristwatch with a GPS system, sms and alarm reminder technologies. This means the volunteer could be tracked and at the same time daily reminders through sms and alarm ensured that each volunteer took Brahmi or placebo as applicable at the right time everyday.

Further, a dedicated call center ensured that phone follow-ups were done regularly to ensure compliance to therapy and collecting feedbacks of the effects. Every week the volunteers had to report for a regular check up on various clinical and biochemical parameters.

Obviously being a Ayurvedic herb, safety and efficacy was guaranteed. It is amazing to note that till date in this ongoing Phase 4 clinical trial not a single major side effect or drug toxicity has been noted.

Sophisticated computer enabled electronic dispensers have been used so that at no point would volunteers on placebo consume Brahmi and vice versa would also not be possible. Thus, the system was foolproof.

The clinical trial was handled by an ecosystem of CROs (clinical research organizations) like Lotus Labs, Bangalore and Quintilles. The statistical processing has been done by Accenture.

Doctor, this is a large timeframe 30 year Phase 4 ongoing clinical trial. The first 10-year milestone report is just out now. The results (pointing to the bar graph in the visual aid) clearly points out that Brahmi is superior to placebo at P (chance proportion) less than 0.01. This means that Brahmi would have acted by chance only once if we had repeated the clinical trial 100 times, the results are statistically highly significant. We have assessed for beta amyloid, tau and other protein markers and related amino acids. These show a positive picture in patients on Brahmi. Comprehensive scoring techniques using mental evaluation techniques like Mini-Mental State Examination score were used to assess the impact of Brahmi/placebo on mental abilities.

So clearly Brahmi retards the onset and progression of dementia in genetically susceptible individuals.

In fact, doctor, we have ongoing trials for assessing Ashvagandha as a preventive herb in patients genetically susceptible to hypertension. Ashvagandha reduces anxiety, promotes adaptation to stress, and thereby retards onset and progress of hypertension in genetically susceptible patients. Another herb Karela is similarly useful to retard onset and progression of prediabetes and diabetes in genetically susceptible patients. However, that is another story for another day.

Doctor, now, can I go with your assurance that you will encourage taking genetic history along with family history, and in genetically susceptible individuals you will prescribe Brahmi for retarding onset and progression of dementia?"

"I am impressed with your presentation and of course with your company – the way it is constantly reinventing itself. I will definitely prescribe Brahmi in patients with family history and genetic history to retard the onset and progression of dementia."

The above hypothetical doctor-to-MR transaction describes the potential for wellness market of pharmaceutical and healthcare products. In fact, the concept of personalized medicine while revolutionizing the approach to healthcare, will create clinical trials that explore the preventive aspects of pharma products, companies will come out with wellness products and products with wellness positioning, and health insurance companies will use probability science to work out premiums based on genetic mapping. It is inevitable that it will be routine to draw cord blood to store stem cells and look in to the genomic profile to develop a disease prevention and management approach. Of course there will be debates on ethical matters but the field of clinical genomics is all set to evolve faster and the healthcare paradigm will change to keep pace.
This post is done at the neighbourhood cyber cafe at 1.20 pm IST on Saturday, 21.7.2007. THNKS FOR GOING THROUGH PLEASE GO THROUGH ALL OTHER POSTS - they are worth it.

Friday, July 13, 2007


BBC health articles on WAP

Convergence technology is getting a boost. BBC is now on the WAP mode. One can access popular health articles using one’s mobile through the WAP service of BBC. This is an opportunity for pharma and healthcare marketers too. The mobile enabled service can serve to connect with prospects and customers.

Imagine on Chocolate Day (7.7.2007) one can offer articles on the benefits of aphrodisiac chocolate through the WAP service. And these can be supported by simple ads of nutritional supplements with proven sex-rejuvenation qualities.

Now the obvious question is who will adopt the WAP service? The likelihood is of travelers waiting at airport lounges, railway and bus platforms, people caught in traffic jams… accessing the WAP service is more. However, let us not forget that there are competing media available at these points: for eg. the FM radio in the car, lounge TV broadcasts… Nevertheless, the WAP service is more personalized and interactive. The person accessing the service is in-control of accessing information on the media. This control and customer empowerment matters too.

The challenge ahead is increasing the adoption rates of BBC’s WAP service innovation. If the mobile phone medium offers more opportunities for communication with potential customers, then the success of this new marketing medium (wap) through the mobile phone also depends on the adoption rates of the WAP service.

What is WAP?

WAP (wireless application protocol) is an open international standard for applications that use wireless communication. Its principal application is to enable access to the Internet from a mobile phone or PDA.

A WAP browser is to provide all of the basic services of a computer based web browser but simplified to operate within the restrictions of a mobile phone. WAP is now the protocol used for the majority of the world's mobile internet sites, known as WAP sites. The Japanese i-mode system is currently the only other major competing wireless data protocol.

Mobile internet sites, or WAP sites, are websites written in, or dynamically converted to, WML (Wireless Markup Language) and accessed via the WAP browser.

Era of the mobile TV

The dawn of a handheld device (like the mobile phone) with rich TV viewing experiences is possible in the near future, for the mass market. According to Accenture and IDC estimates, the mobile TV market value will be worth $30 billion by 2009. The Digital video broadcasting-handheld, or DVB-H technology, promises to make high quality TV viewing through the mobile or handheld devices, a mass market. Adopted by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in December 2004 as the mobile TV broadcasting standard for Europe, DVB-H is a terrestrial digital TV standard that allows mobile phones and handheld computers to receive TV broadcasting over a digital TV network without using mobile phone networks. With the DVB- H technology live video streaming is possible for unlimited users. Overall momentum is building fast for adopting the DVB – H technology worldwide and is a promising emerging technology.

With the dawn of DVB – H enabled mobile TV; a new vista opens up for Pharma and healthcare marketing – communication activity. One can get hold of prospects and customers even when they are on the go. Communication on health issues will not just be to a living room audience through the immobile TV.

Let us see and observe how the video streaming improvements lead to new dimensions of Pharma and healthcare marketing. (It is interesting to note that the recent Live Earth conference has attracted more online video streaming than audience through the TV channels. CLICK HERE. This indicates the trend towards newer forms of digital and electronic media).

The Mobile phone, persuasive technology and Pharma-marketing

Fogg of the Stanford University has an interesting career - he studies persuasive technology. Fogg, who directs the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab at the Center for the Study of Language and Information, says that in a decade, mobile phones and other portable devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs) will become a more important platform for persuasion than television is right now. He cites the following reasons for his outlook:

Ø Mobile phones travel with us all the time. "It has to be a device you can carry with you without inconveniencing yourself—something like a laptop is portable, but not mobile," Fogg explains. "You can't really carry your laptop with you anywhere, whereas a mobile phone - you can put it in your pocket and forget it's there."

Ø Mobile phones like various persuasive media are interactive. Fogg says, any device has to be interactive to be able to persuade. It is desirable for the gadget to connect with the Internet, he says.

"Because mobile devices are with us all the time, it's such a tight relationship that it's very much like a marriage," Fogg says. "In fact, you probably spend more time with your mobile phone than with your marriage partner."

The scope of the mobile is not limited to persuasive marketing communication: Mobile persuasion "is not just about ads on mobile phones," Fogg says. "It touches many fields, from marketing and advertising to health, to education, personal coaching and so on. In fact, the uses for health are probably the most interesting right now." Applications include weight loss and safer sex practices.

myFoodPhone and SexINFO have adopted the mobile phone for persuasive communication. The former messages on nutritious eating habits, while the latter counsels, and messages, on safe sex practices.

There is enough and more scope for Pharma and Healthcare marketing through mobile persuasion. Pharma companies can use the persuasive mobile technology for sponsoring-

Ø Immunization schedule reminders to enlisted subscribers,
Ø Provide timely reminders for taking doses of medications and remind about the annual or other time-period bound check ups
Ø Doctors can use the mobile to provide reminders about taking appointments; one can
Ø Provide a nutritional supplement advisory service for eg. if the sms typed by the questioner is STRESS, the reply can be Ashvagandha Himalaya from the message sponsor
Ø Can provide updates on side effects and dosage schedules for medications through voice mail or sms or e-mails
Ø Emergency healthcare advisory services

From the above details it appears the mobile phone is in for a very interesting and influential future. CLIK SNAPS – LISTEN TO MUSIC – BROWSE – TALK – SMS- MMS – SHARE INFO AND PICTURES – MOBILE BLOGGING – WATCH VIDEO…it is all about connectivity. The hi-touch and hi-tech approach never fails…Google is also about connecting people and minds, and not just about organizing information (as they say). Mobile phones too fall in to this class of devices connecting people. (I wonder how Google is planning to address this mobile phone enabled persuasion and connecting technology.).

This is my 37th post, and I recommend my esteemed readers to read all the other posts too as they are very interesting. Ph.: 9980800023. Posted from my sister's house on Friday the 13th, July, 2007 at 8.00 PM IST.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


What is Citizen Marketing?

Citizen marketing refers to the processes that lead people to generate their own content and advocacy for and about companies/brands.

Citizen marketing can be considered as a type of word-of-mouth marketing (viral marketing). However, in citizen marketing it is just not about passing the talk around, which is true viral marketing; in citizen marketing there is actual creation of marketing communication content by independent customer fans or evangelists.

The torchbearers of the Citizen Marketing concept

The concept of Citizen Marketing was identified and popularized by two very intelligent marketing personas - Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. Their book on the CITIZEN MARKETING concept is a runaway global success.

In their provocative new book, Citizen Marketers, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba explore the ramifications of today's burgeoning social media. As everyday people increasingly create content on behalf of companies, brands, or products—to which they have no official connection—they are turning traditional notions of media upside down. Collaborating with others just like themselves, they are forming ever-growing communities of enthusiasts and evangelists using videos, photos, songs, and animations, as well as the "user-generated media" of blogs, online bulletin boards, and podcasts. From the rough to the sophisticated, their creations are influencing companies' customer relationships, product design, and marketing campaigns—whether the companies participate willingly or not.

Example of a classic citizen marketing case:

George Masters is one of these fans. He loves his iPod. One day he was listening to the song "Tiny Machine" by the Darling Buds and suddenly, so he says, "visual imagery started flowing to me." In his spare time he produced an animation of iPods dancing to the song. He uploaded it to his blog, and a few weeks later it was making headlines, with tens of thousands of views and downloads.

The Alli brand t-shirt campaign for creating citizen marketers

One can use the Citizen Marketing concepts for a new launch like Alli- a new anti-obesity OTC drug launched by Glaxo. For eg. one can run a T-shirt campaign for a Alli. Netizens can be invited and encouraged to design a T-shirt online using the company logo, brand names, taglines, and create messages like FAT IS NO FUN. BUT I HAVE AN ALLI WITH ME!, these elements can then be printed on to the T-shirt. The company can then ship the T-shirt across to the designer free of cost while putting it up for sale via the net at cost price for other interested netizens.

Medical fraternity centric and user-generated vlogs and podcasts

Citizen marketing is a force that can now be harnessed in favor by a marketer. For eg. Converse is a 96 year old sneaker firm invited customers to post short films. The best 13 were given awards and the films featured on Mtv. A Converse gallery was created. The sales too have shot up thanks to the word-of-mouth factor and thanks to the entire buzz.

Alli can use vlogs and podcasts to create a buzz. Doctors and para-medical staff and other opinion builder users can be encouraged to essay their brand experiences on voice or video. The content can be posted as vlogs and podcasts. This gives hope to vlog viewers and podcast listeners. After all, marketers deliver value and solutions that are viewed as hope by potential and actual customers.

One more drug that can benefit from Citizen Marketing drives is bupropion – the antismoking drug. In this case, citizen marketing efforts can be harnessed for creating consciousness about the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to seek the doctor’s advice on bupropion for effectively quitting the nicotine habit.

For antismoking campaigns, one can encourage posting of candid photos & e-posters on a bupropion sponsored site. Interested individuals can also be encouraged to host short films and generally create a multimedia buzz to discourage smoking while encouraging the smoking community to ask the doctor about bupropion.

BMI is passé let us also talk waist circumference measurement

Today obesity, metabolic syndrome and Type II diabetes are burning health issues worldwide. This is thanks to a culture of consumption and comforts prevalent in a sedentary lifestyle. Naturally one of the most vital approaches to combating the obesity epidemic is bringing about lifestyle changes. This can’t be done by preaching and legislation alone. What is required is a peoples’ movement for this. And to catalyze a peoples’ movement for a healthier lifestyle, one can harness the concepts of CITIZEN MARKETING.

A simple and elegant approach for a Citizen Marketing crusade against obesity is creating consciousness about the waist-circumference.

As per research reports, Asian women with a waist circumference of more than 31 inches and Asian men with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches, are at an increased risk for developing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases like gall bladder disease. In the case of non-Asian women, the danger zone of waist circumference is more than 35 inches and for non-Asian men the danger zone of waist circumference is more than 40 inches.

Reach out to citizen marketers via the internet and the traditional media

In Pharma marketing, there are two main media used: HUMAN MEDIA (represented by MRs who carry messages to prospects and doctors) and PRINT MEDIA (advertisements in mags and journals, literatures, pils, flyers and other print products through database mailer marketing and MRs). However, ELECTRONIC AND DIGITAL MEDIA are the new revolutionary trends to reach out to prospects and doctors.

It is really about creating the word-of-mouth buzz and co-creation of messages regarding brands. A simple strategy is to reach out to obese and susceptible people via a mail-a-free-postcard campaign on obesity and on susceptibility to obesity, to one’s near and dear ones.

This new trend of user-generated marketing messages can be described as open-source marketing. When marketing companies and agencies encourage co-created campaigns, they will generate good conversational currency.

One can extrapolate the Alli T-shirt campaign to other memorablia like books, bookmarks, bumper stickers, greeting cards, coffee mugs…

The above approaches will help align the forces of citizen marketing and a company’s official viral marketing efforts to energize the brand ALLI and create a buzz. Citizen marketing is an extension of customer evangelism. Citizen marketing is enabled by technology. Thus, the Citizen media is here to stay thanks to the web 2.0 technologies. In days to come with the broadband and other convergence technologies increasing their penetration and as adoption rates spiral upwards, citizen marketing will no doubt get a fillip.

Hence, when certain trends in society get established, it is wiser to align with the market forces and exploit the same for a brand’s benefit. Citizen marketing is all about empowerment of people through web-technology. Citizen marketing is also ‘marketing democracy’ in action.

And by the way, a classic example of a citizen Pharma marketing effort for Alli is this blogpost is itself.


All is not well with ALLI! Connect with this site:

This is my 36th post, and I recommend my esteemed readers to read all the other 35 posts too as they are very interesting. Mob.:9980800023. Posted from my sister's house at 8.00 PM IST on 10.7.2007.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


In the above photograph we see my buddy Mr. R L K Agnihotri, VP, Biovel along with his family. Mr. Agnihotri (Agni or Raja to his friends) has had an interesting career starting as a lecturer after his M. Pharm. To sum up his career in one word - it is - ‘intrapreneur’! A very affectionate person, Agni shares his practical insights (given in italics below each topic) in the article below.

Mr. Agnihotri’s wife Ms. Sudha Agnihotri has been an able ‘ardhangini’ (this means loved companion and wife in Sanskrit). They live with their children ( boy - Shreyas & girl - Shravya) at Bangalore.

To begin with…

As per the Economic Times, dated 16.6.2007, on page no. 5, the Indian biotech industry has crossed the 2 billion dollar mark. The exact amount is 2.13 billion dollars in total revenues in FY2007 (April 2006 to March 2007). There was a 31% growth over FY06’s 1.6 billion dollar revenues (Rs. 6521 crores). Exports from this sunrise sector for the FY07 stood at 1.2 billion dollars (Rs. 4937 crores) showing a good growth of 47%.

The break up of the biotech performance (according to the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises, ie. ABLE):

Position no. 1: Serum Institute, Pune with revenues of Rs. 951 crores.
Position no. 2: Biocon, Bangalore with revenues of Rs. 823 crores.
Position no. 3: Panacea Biotec, New Delhi with revenues of Rs. 600 crores.

The no. 4 and 5 ranks are with biotech based agri companies:
Position no. 4: Rasi Seeds, Salem with revenues of Rs. 333 crores (sells mainly Bt cotton seeds).
Position no. 5: Nuziveedu Seeds, Hyderabad with revenues of Rs. 226 crores.

The next five players with revenues over Rs. 100 crores: Venkateshwara Hatcheries, Indian Immunologicals, Shanta Biotechnics, Mahyco and Bharat Serum.

The biopharma segment accounts for over two thirds of the biotech industry. The sales of this segment are Rs. 5,973 crores showing a growth of 27%. The bioservices sector registered 53% growth. Bioagri sector grew by 55%. The bioinformatics sector grew at 21% and bioindustrial sector grew at 5%.


By giving credit to ABLE for these numbers, one should not forget Biospectrum a monthly biotech magazine that has put tremendous efforts to map the contours of this industry.

The figures look very attractive and can pull any entrepreneur; but closer you look the wiser you become to invest/ understand this industry! Biotechnology is very broad industry with its application in Healthcare, agri, plant, services, diagnostics…

The above list of Top 10 companies in Biotech industry comprises of so-called biotech, biopharma and bio agri companies. I feel the listing should be done as Top 10 Biopharma companies OR Top 10 Bio agri companies, as this will give focus on which segment of biotechnology industry is growing. Unfortunately the industry doesn’t have any other reliable data source apart from Biospectrum.
The next question-
Whom do we call a Biotech company? Whom do we call a Biopharma company?
Clarity has to set in. At present everybody is a biotech & biopharma company.

I was going through the recently released June issue (page 16) of Biospectrum under the survey & ranking methodology wherein it mentions: “The revenues considered for the analysis are biotech products sales and services figures. In several cases, where revenue figures were not available, estimates were arrived at talking to industry experts”. So where is the authenticity?

Also, the revenues of the top companies come from exports, which is around 65 %, why have the sales of biotech products not picked up in the domestic market? It’s a question to ponder on.
In India, after the Hepatitis –B vaccine you don’t find a biotech molecule which made a big wave.

I would like to stop at this juncture, and say we need to understand the reality of this industry rather than creating hype.

Biopharmaceuticals - defined

Biopharmaceuticals are therapeutic or preventative medicines that are derived from living cells, using recombinant DNA technology. Conventional pharmaceuticals are generally small molecules, whereas biopharmaceuticals are typically proteins, peptides, nucleic acids or inactivated viruses/bacteria. The distinct families of biopharmaceuticals include hormones and enzymes, cytokines and peptides (naturally occurring proteins that regulate or modify the growth of specific cells), vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, antisense drugs and cell therapies. The leading biopharma products are Epogen (Sales: $2.5 billion), Avastin (Sales: $1.1 billion), Humira ($1.4 billion), Remicade (Sales: $2.5 billion).


With increase in target specific or treatment specific approach, Biopharmaceuticals are going to be the products of the future.

Peptides are ones in this patch and will grow as most of the leading companies internationally are working on different peptides with different delivery systems.

At the same time one should keep in mind that, biopharma / biotech products are capital intensive with a long gestation period, so the timeframe cycle, investment model, regulatory requirements, and IPR issues have to be clearly understood.

Biopharma’s impact on healthcare marketing

The working of biotech companies like Avestha Gengraine is writing the convergence of food, pharmaceuticals and clinical genomics. This is leading to a very powerful future of personalized medical care. The impact will be felt in terms of a revolutionary model of preventive healthcare.

As per WHO, the leading causes of death in high-income countries are:
No. 1 killer: Coronary heart disease
No. 2 killer: Stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases
No. 3 killer: Cancers of the respiratory system (trachea, bronchi and lungs)
No. 4 killer: Lower respiratory infections
No. 5 killer: COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
No. 6 killer: Colon and rectal cancers
No. 7 killer: Alzheimer and other dementias
No. 8 killer: Diabetes mellitus
No. 9 killer: Breast cancer
No. 10 killer: Stomach cancer

Leading biopharma companies are stressing their R & D efforts on degenerative conditions, metabolic disorders, and infectious disease thereby matching the WHO data on the fatal disease trends.


YES. Unlike in pharma sector most of the biopharma companies are pumping in at least 30 – 40 % of their revenues in R & D efforts to strengthen their pipeline. I feel the reason for matching the products on WHO data is for assured business, as WHO acts as procurement agency for underdeveloped countries (the above list is indicative for small income countries too).

Apart from this, there are a few Biotech companies in India who are working on vaccines for the diseases like Roto viral diarrhea & malaria, which are most prevalent in Asia.

Biopharma sector’s ‘food as medicine’ endeavors

Hippocrates had emphasized ages back: let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food. Ayurveda has emphasized on this aspect too. Biotech is now endeavoring to present this bygone wisdom in a modern avatar. Cutting edge biotech approaches are working to create medicinal plant based bioactive nutraceuticals (dietary substances) for degenerative diseases and morbid conditions like osteoporosis (based on genistein, diadzein and other soy or red clover isoflavones), arthritis (particularly degenerative osteoarthritis where in cartilage degeneration is arrested and reversed with help of bioactives like glucosamine and MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane)), management of diabetes and diabetic complications, and obesity (the current world-wide epidemic). Biopharma is thus fuelling the functional food industry.


Nutraceuticals in the Indian context is mostly considered as dietary replacement therapy and still considered as high value products. This segment still lacks wide acceptance.

Prebiotics and probiotics

The application of useful bacteria in clinical practice particularly in case of diarrhea and antibiotic induced gastrointestinal imbalance in the gut-flora has opened up a new window of opportunity for biotech industries. Thus, biopharma companies are playing a major role in the wellness trend.


YES looking at the benefits they offer, prebiotics and probiotics play a major role in clinical practice, but unfortunately, pharma companies have played and promoted this product on price and irrational combinations.

Biopharma sector’s unique collaborative approaches

The biopharma sector being at a nascent stage, is witnessing a collaborative approach among companies. The companies are working through mutually beneficial relationships for creating value added products and services. For eg. Avesthagen has an ongoing collaborative approach with Cipla, Nestle, bioMérieux, France and other companies. Biocon has several R & D agreements with Indian and foreign companies.

Biovel is actively seeking to firm its presence through further collaborations.


As said above, the segment is capital intensive and has a long incubation period, to sustain this, one has to look into collaboration models. Its good that now, VC /PE are looking at funding at early stages of discovery.

Biovel is also looking into strategic alliances in Biotherapeutics.

Indian biopharma companies venturing in to cutting-edge R & D

Indian biopharma companies like Intas Biopharmaceuticals and Avesthagen are getting in to recombinant microorganisms, stem cell therapy, and transgenic animals (for harvesting recombinant proteins from lactating transgenic animals and for production of plasma factors for eg.: Factor 8 and 9 in case of haemophilia) for production of biopharmaceutical actives.


There are many Indian Biopharma companies who are working on many important biotherapeutics / biosimilars and are also pumping in money into cutting edge R & D. Even DBT, TDB are also funding the R & D projects. It’s, however, still a long way.

On the regulatory front, the process needs to be fast and supportive. Thanks are due to Mr. Mashelkar for his effort in bringing out policy guidelines on recombinant products. Also, with the National Biotechnology policy in place and the GEAC, things should improve.

Biogenerics ahoy!

Erythropoeitin, vaccines (of attenuated or dead viruses) immunoglobulins and other monoclonal antibodies present a world-wide opportunity that are being encashed by Indian companies like Wockhardt, Bharat Biotech, Shantha Biotech, Serum Institute (the no. 1 Indian biopharma company) and Biocon.

Agnihotri: YES. Indian companies are gearing up to launch many more recombinant proteins apart from r-EPO, and are competitive with due advantage of cost effective resources.

From chemical based Pharma to chemical and biotech based Pharma

India is a leading global player in the chemical based Pharma industry. In fact, Cipla’s generics are mounting a challenge in the field of anti-AIDS medicines while Lupin is a leader API for anti TB medications. The Indian Govt. has traditionally played a major role in creating a bright future for the Pharma industry through policy interventions such as the Indian Patents Act, 1970 that provided the foundation to the Indian Pharma industry. In fact, the Indian government has just published a draft National Biotechnology Development Strategy in which it details plans to set up a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority 'with separate divisions for transgenic crops, recombinant drugs and industrial products, transgenic food and feed, transgenic animals and aquaculture'. And India's fledgling biotech industry is expected to grow still further to reach a value of $5 billion in 2010, with biopharmaceuticals continuing to capture the lion's share of the growing market and the sector as a whole employing 1 million people by that time.

The development of the biopharma sector in India comes at a time when regulatory routes are opening up in Europe and the US for generic versions of biologic drugs, suggesting that Indian companies may attempt to achieve in the biopharmaceutical sector what they have accomplished in the market for supplying traditional active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).


We are moving towards Chemical and Biotech based pharma, but still as said above our regulatory mechanisms need to be more supportive and speedy; also the IPR mechanisms needs to be more stronger.
Speedy regulatory clearance will help biotech start-ups and companies. Of course now, we now have the Recombinant committee, Genetic engineering committee etc. But it still this needs more streamlining.

India attracts MNCs

The 1 billion plus population of India, the technical resource personnel, the accommodative and English speaking culture of India and the innate attractiveness of India are attracting major biopharma MNCs. For eg., Pall Life Science has established a Center of Excellence at J P Nagar in Bangalore. This trend of internationalism in the biopharma field is fuelling an ecosystem for flourishing biopharma companies.

Certain facts and figures of the aggressive and innovative Indian Pharma industry attracting global attention: The biopharmaceutical industry throughout Asia is experiencing a major surge in activity. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is one of the world’s largest, ranking 4th in terms of volume. According to Opportunities in Indian Pharma Sector (July 2006), India holds US$ six billion of the $550 billion global pharmaceutical industry, an annual increase of 10 percent compared with the seven percent annual growth of the overall world market. The biotechnology market is also booming in India and is expected to continue on a fast pace with the support of the government through its comprehensive national biotechnology policy. Indian Biotechnology Market Outlook (February 2007) reports that the Indian biotechnology industry has grown 28.09 percent from 2005, and is likely to touch the US$ five billion mark by the end of 2010.

The world-wide biopharma boom is recent

In 1982, recombinant human insulin, the first biopharmaceutical product was launched, marking the arrival of the biopharmaceutical industry. Since then, there was no looking back. The biopharmaceutical market has been growing rapidly world over. Currently, over 130 biopharma products are being marketed around the world and this number includes more than a dozen blockbuster drugs. In fact, biopharmaceuticals are hailed as the future medicine, which will revolutionise the treatment of diseases for which no cure exists.

The present global biopharmaceutical market is valued at around $71 billion with a growth rate of about 16 percent. The current sales of biotechnology products worldwide are pegged at around $40 billion. It is also estimated that by 2010, the figure is likely to cross the $100 billion mark. The biopharmaceuticals’ pie can be classified on the basis of geographies; North America accounting to almost 60 percent of the revenue and R&D. Europe accounts for 20 percent and Japan takes up 10 percent of the pie.

There are more than a dozen biopharmaceuticals with US patents on the brink of expiry by end of 2006. It is estimated that biotech drug patents worth about $11.5 billion would be expired, creating a colossal market.

The worldwide demand for biopharmaceuticals is fuelling expansion of manufacturing plants in India along with contract research opportunities. The main product lines in high demand from the Indian biopharma sector are the vaccines, interferons, monoclonal antibodies, erythropoietin, enzymes and statin drugs.


YES. It’s booming. India is going to be the Contract manufacturing/research hub of the world.

I would like to recall the words said by Dr. Prahalad, the marketing guru, in his speech during the award ceremony of the Economic Times, 2005 (Dr. Prahalad received the global Indian award, 2005). He said:

If India can integrate its intellectual component, IT component and manufacturing component, it can stand as the bench mark to its global players “
In days to come, you will witness blockbusters from Indian companies in the global market of biosimilars and delivery systems. JUST WATCH!

(THIS IS THE 35TH POST PUT ON WEDNESDAY THE 4TH OF JULY 2007 AT 7.30 PM FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD CYBER CENTRE. I sincerely feel all the 35 posts are worth reading.).