‘Peptides have potency to treat several types of cancer’
Hyderabad-based Issar Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd — a company involved in research, development and commercialisation of peptides and peptide-based pharmaceutical formulations — has pioneered the first peptide derived product ‘Melgain’ for treatment of Vitiligo, commonly known as leucoderma. ‘‘Research has unravelled the curative powers of peptides in the treatment of many diseases including cancer. Extensive research and clinical trials for over a decade has demonstrated that basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) derived peptide is the right drug for Vitiligo,’’ says Ram Isanaka, Chairman, Issar Pharmaceuticals. In an interview with Satyapal Menon, Ram Isanaka talks about the potency of peptides as a panacea of tomorrow for various ailments and also the company’s initiatives in developing peptide product-line. Excerpts:
In addition to Melgain, what are the other products in Isaar Pharma’s peptide pipeline?
Peptide-based products can prove to be efficacious against all kinds of cancers. We have developed a peptide-based product for treatment of cancer. The drug was administered on a terminally ill cancer patient in the USA. She volunteered to undergo treatment with our medication, since there was little scope left for her survival. It is 20 months since we started treatment and the patient has been responding quite positively to our product. The company’s other products for the treatment of skin wrinkles, skin tanning and wound healing are in phase I clinical trials stage and would hit the market by 2005. We also have the patent for developing a product for sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
How does this product act against cancer and when is it being launched in the market?
This peptide-based product for cancer causes tumour regression ie, it kills the cells in the tumour thus arresting their growth. The product has to undergo toxicological and clinical trials and we hope to bring it out by the end of next year.
Peptide being potent panacea for various ailments why was it not exploited earlier? Was there a lack of knowledge or research into this area of specialty?
A few years ago there were only a few who ventured into biotechnology, but over a period of time realisation dawned about its potential. Today, biotechnology is one of the most sought after areas of specialisation since it offers scope for product development.
Similar is the case with peptide research and development, the efficacy of peptide-based products as a curative is being felt only now and they are poised to become the products of the future.
There are no universities which offer training in this area of specialisation, resulting in a lack of peptide trained specialists. Infact, most of the scientists involved in peptide research and development in the US today are Indians, since we have a reputation of being very good chemists.
You have the facility and you have a different approach ie, acquiring patented products for development and commercialisation. How many patents have you acquired to date?
Issar is the only company in the country equipped with the facility for peptide-based research, development and commercialisation.
A professor in the US had patented 17 peptide-based concepts and he transferred them to us. Since we have the facility, capability and capacity to produce peptide-based products, we look for people who are prepared to transfer their patents.
Once the patent is transferred, we do the rest — beginning from developing the product, putting it through the toxicological and clinical stages to commercialisation and marketing.
What has been the investment involved in the development of Meglain?
Normally, investment for R&D expenses on a single product/entity itself would come to around $500 million. And the entire process takes about ten years. Since we had already taken up a patented product for treatment of vitiligo we did not have to go through this process. However, our investment was considerable, not just in terms of money but also the enormous efforts and time involved in coming out with the product.