Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Mar 15, 2003
Research & Development
SRL-Ranbaxy aims for new heights in clinical testing
P.T. Jyothi Datta
NEW DELHI, March 14
THE moment of glory, when athlete Sunita Rani was cleared from the disgrace of doping and given back her gold and bronze medals, was made possible by laboratory tests done by SRL-Ranbaxy Ltd. (SRL-RL). Having successfully restored the medals to the national athlete, the erstwhile Ranbaxy-group company, SRL-RL, is keen to increase its clinical testing operations, besides expanding its laboratory network in India and the SAARC countries.
SRL-RL has embarked on two significant clinical trial projects for the US-based contract research organisation (CRO) CRL.Medinet and the European pharma company Altanta Pharma. "They are Phase III clinical trial projects," Mr Vidur Kaushik, CEO, SRL-RL told Business Line, unwilling to divulge details about the project due to the confidentiality contract.
However, he said that SRL-RL was undertaking clinical trials for new molecules, that could be developed into drugs, in the cardio-vascular and diabetes segments, among others. The clinical testing laboratory network has already undertaken contract clinical trials for global pharma majors such as Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Johnson and Johnson, besides domestic companies such as Wockhardt and Ranbaxy.
With India offering a major cost advantage for third-party clinical trials, SRL-RL's operations in this segment are also seeing significant growth. "We are already doing clinical trials for several pharma majors. But to step-up the scale of our operations, we will require the removal of limitations that are placed on the import of samples." Company officials have taken up the issue with the Drug Controller General of India, even as SRL-RL seeks to take on more such projects.
Dr Sumedha Sahni, Director Operations, said that clinical trials accounted for about 15 per cent of SRL-RL's total sales. But this is set to increase, since Indian clinical trial costs are half the European rates and between half to one-tenth the US rates. Also, more domestic pharma companies were getting into innovative drugs and required quality testing, she pointed out.
The erstwhile SRL was a 50:50 joint venture between Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd and Speciality Laboratories Inc ,US (SLI) and only last year, SLI's stake was bought out by Ranbaxy's promoters, the late Dr Parvinder Singh's family.
On sporting the Ranbaxy name, he said that though SRL-RL was no longer a Ranbaxy group company, it would continue to sport the name for the period of time, as specified by the terms of the contract last year.
SRL-RL is setting up four more new labs in the country, adding to its existing four laboratories in Mumbai, Bangalore, Mohali and Delhi. In the next three months, new labs are expected to come up in Hyderabad, Kolkata and New Delhi.
Meanwhile, it is also looking at crossing the shores and moving into the SAARC countries, besides intensifying its existing collection activity from Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. And replicating the strategy adopted in India, the collection centres would be at reputed hospitals or through a franchisee, he said.
SRL-RL expects to close the current fiscal at Rs 50 crore, growing at about 40 per cent. It operates in 250 towns and receives up to 3,000 samples per day.
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