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Emerging Trends in Life Sciences Bio Pharma, Complex Generics, Specialty Pharma

Speakers:

  • Anika Chowdhury, Head of Business Development and Strategy, Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
  • Cyrus Karkaria, President Biotechnology Division, Lupin
  • Subhanu Saxena, Managing Partner, New Rhein Healthcare Investors
  • Kannan Subramaniam, Senior Director, Research Development & Medical, Upjohn, a division of Pfizer Inc.

Moderator:

  • Srividya Jagannathan, Global Lead for Life Sciences, IFC

The pharma sector is at a crossroads. Once defined by a group of innovator companies typically from advanced economies spending billions of dollars on R&D and launching products, and generic manufacturers typically from developing countries launching generic versions as products went off patent, these lines have blurred. China is spending large sums on innovation and R&D, biologics innovators have acquired a large share of the biosimilars business, and on the market side, developing regions including Africa and Southeast Asia are experiencing a surge in demand for products.

Anika Chowdhury, who leads business development at Square, Bangladesh’s largest pharmaceutical company, summed up the macro trends: a soar in chronic diseases; payors increasingly mandating what doctors can and cannot prescribe; patients looking for more ‘personalized medicine’ that goes beyond treatments and provides cures; and research centers moving to Asia where operating costs are lower. Having recently set up its first plant in Kenya, Chowdhury stressed what promising a growth market for manufacturers that Africa has become, the continent bearing 40 percent of the world’s disease burden but only consuming 3 percent of global medicine supplies.

Subhanu Saxena, Managing Partner at New Rhein Healthcare Investors, an international private equity firm, said that as R&D costs keep mounting, adding that a big challenge is “how do we find more disruptive approaches to bring down the cost of development” for manufacturers. The issue is become more pressing as companies shift focus to producing higher complexity products. “If you added up all the biologics in development for cancer, if only 10 percent make it to market, it will bankrupt all the healthcare systems in the world. Something is not adding up,” said Saxena, who was previously a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“If you added up all the biologics in development for cancer, if only 10 percent make it to market, it will bankrupt all the healthcare systems in the world."—Subhanu Saxena

Commenting on headwinds in the biosimilars market, Cyrus Karkaria, President of the Biotechnology division at Lupin, one of top five biosimilar companies in India, said: “Clearly, biosimilars are not the panacea that people hoped they would be.” That’s because not many companies have the necessary technical expertise to make them and because market entry hurdles in emerging markets are so high due to costly clinical trials that most companies can only market to higher income segments.

On the topic of regulatory regimes, Kannan Subramaniam, who leads a noncommunicable diseases division for Upjohn, a division of Pfizer, sounded a note of caution about the overall conference theme of embracing disruptive technologies. “If we don’t have the regulators keeping pace, we are going to have a Boeing 737 MAX happening in the digital space,” he warned. Speaking specifically about the generics market, Square’s Chowdhury said that the regulatory regime was very strict across markets, even in emerging markets like Bangladesh and Africa.

“If we don’t have the regulators keeping pace, we are going to have a Boeing 737 MAX happening in the digital space.”—Kannan Subramaniam

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