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Kalam to launch NPIL's new R&D centre today

Our Bureau

Mumbai , Nov. 17

It is no longer "strategic choice," but a "strategic imperative" that Indian companies do research, said Mr Ajay Piramal, Chairman of Nicholas Piramal India Ltd (NPIL).

And to fuel this emphasis on research, NPIL is scheduled to have its Rs 100-crore research and development (R&D) centre unveiled by the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, on Thursday.

Significantly, the centre is the second large R&D venture from a domestic pharma company being launched by the President in less than two months.

In September this year, he had opened Wockhardt's new research centre in Aurangabad.

Speaking at a press-preview of the centre, Mr Piramal said that the new R&D centre was the largest one under one roof in the country and the second of its kind in the world after GE.

The centre has about 225 scientists and the number will increase to 400 by next year, he said and added that the new centre was not for contract research.

Finance for the new centre was being raised internally, he said and added that there were no plans to raise funds.

About Rs 30 crore would be invested in the facility, he said and the balance would go towards equipment, among other things.

Dr Somesh Sharma, NPIL's Chief Scientific Officer, said that pharma R&D ran the highest risk in the world, with the cost increasing disproportionately to the output.

He said that the company had minimised the risks in its R&D strategy by working on clinically validated targets, for instance.

Other strategies included, work in the biotech segment and striking more in-licensing deals, where products from global companies could be manufactured and marketed in India.

The R&D centre would focus on oncology or developing products for cancer, metabolic disorders and diabetes.

He said that NPIL had developed five molecules, two in oncology, two in diabetes and one inflammation drug.

Three of these molecules (that would be further developed to become drugs) were in an advanced stage of development, he said, though a final medicine was still about seven years away, he added.

Elaborating on the in-licensing opportunities for the company, he said they included: Vaccine technology and diabetes in Canada, the Rheumatoid Arthritis segment in the UK and cancer in the US.

The new centre will also look at leveraging the country's traditional medicine systems, such as Ayurveda and herbal medicines.

The centre housed a collection of 31,000 microbial strains and 3,000 plant species, he said.

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