January 31, 2014
In this inaugural edition, we bring to you the story of a gritty entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical space – S. Abhaya Kumar, Managing Director, Shasun Pharmaceuticals Limited (Shasun). He discusses the evolution of Shasun, its patent strategy and why differentiating through intellectual property is crucial in the pharmaceutical sector.
Shasun’s S. Abhaya Kumar discusses his company’s intellectual property strategy
Around the same period, the company’s CRAMS business also grew due to its focus on quality, timely deliveries, ability to supply the drug at good value and, most importantly, a well-recognized research team.
In the year 2000, the global pharma industry was looking at biotechnology very seriously. Shasun too analyzed the space and decided to get into a field of biotech and focused on recombinant proteins. Abhaya Kumar says, “At a broad level, the biotech sector had three kinds of companies – large scale, medium scale and small scale. For a company of our size, it made sense to focus on this area called recombinant proteins which was comparatively smaller scale.”
Shasun partnered with Institute of Microbial Technology in Chandigarh (IMTech) and took over a process that was still in the developmental stage. The company took it through validation phase in three years and launched it in nine years. In June 2009, Shasun commercially launched recombinant streptokinase, a huge milestone for the company. Abhaya Kumar says, “At the time, almost all the streptokinase sold in India is made by us, under different brands.” Of course, streptokinase is a lifesaver that works as a clot-dissolving drug. It is the first drug that is administered during a heart attack or thrombosis. For Shasun, it marked the company’s entry into bio-therapeutics and also bolstered the company’s capabilities to take technologies at the development stage in labs to a successful commercial launch. By 2010, the company’s sales of this recombinant protein touched Rs. 50 crore.
Earlier in 2006, Shasun completed the acquisition of the custom synthesis business unit of UK-based Rhodia Pharma Solutions. The acquisition was done keeping in mind Shasun’s strategy of expanding its global presence in the APIs, contract manufacturing and custom synthesis segments. Through the acquisition, Shasun also took over the manufacturing facilities of the company in the UK. Abhaya Kumar says, “The other important aspect is that we got over 100 patents from Rhodia. Of these, over 67 are still alive.” Kumar believes that one of the critical success factors of what made this acquisition work revolved around how Shasun put these patents to good use.
The next frontier: nanotechnology
In 2011, Shasun formed a 50:50 Joint Venture with Nanoparticle Biochem Inc. (NBI), which is partly owned by University of Missouri, Columbia. The eventual goal is to develop a nanotechnology using radio activated gold nano particles to cure a solid tumour. It is a technology where these gold nano particles are inserted inside the tumour (which is possible because of its nano size) and it starts killing the tumour from within, in less than 21 days. Through this process, treatment for cancer will be a lot easier with no chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Abhaya Kumar says, “This technology is still a few years away and we’re starting clinical trials now. One of the options we’re looking at is to bring out this technology as a device (and not a drug), which will make the approval process faster.”
Abhaya Kumar says, differentiating through IP creation is a crucial strategy in the pharmaceutical sector. He adds, “And, it is a constant effort which can never stop. My advice to anyone looking to create IP will be to setup a scientific advisory committee including a patent lawyer. Also, a great way to invest into scientists is through partnerships with universities or research organizations.” He also reminds entrepreneurs to keep in mind that the company needs to have a war chest, in case of patent litigations.
Overall, Shasun has 78 active patents and is working towards deriving commercial value out of majority of these. “In our industry, we need to be four years ahead; we’re working on drugs that will launched a few years from now,” he says on a parting note.
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