UK firms ‘hungry’ to tie up with India

UK firms ‘hungry’ to tie up with India

Viveka Roychowdhury

At a recent seminar organised in Mumbai by UK Trade and Investment, a dozen odd UK-base firms, came on a mission to search for partners. In his welcome address, Spencer Mahony, First Secretary, UK Trade & Investment, pointed out that though the UK has just one percent of world population, it has managed to do a lot more than India’s 16 percent of the population, in terms of Nobel Laureates and scientific papers published per year. This would seem to point out to the need to collaborate, and as David Hawkins, LIfesciences Specialist, UK Trade & Investment, mentioned, it it is no longer true that UK is good at research, but not so good at commercialisation of this research.

Dharmi Magdani, Senior Inward Investment Adviser, British Deputy High Commission says that the aim of this Mission is for Indian companies to deepen/expand existing activities in UK, to undertake new R&D activity in UK or to collaborate with UK companies or organizations.

Speakers at the seminar titled “Partnerships for Global Opportunities” included Karen James, Managing Director, Cambridge Regulatory Services, who stressed how due attention to Regulatory Affairs can get drugs to market quicker and gave some tips and common questions to be raised by companies hoping to get approval in the European Union (EU). She also touched on the issues in focus in the EU at present, like the obligation to test patient information leaflets by sample users for all drugs post November 2005.

Going by the number of appointments set up for the post lunch networking session, Indian pharmacos at the seminar, mostly from the Western region, seemed most eager to meet up with Dr Simon Bennett, Business Development Director, Glide Pharma to get more details on Glide’s innovative needle-free injection (NFI) device. Winner of last year’s Medical Innovation of the Year Award, this device looks like a pen, which uses a simple spring mechanism to deliver the drug, sans needles. Ideal for vaccines, Bennett stresses that this kind of delivery does not just address the needle phobia issue but also the safety aspect when one considers the risk from blood borne diseases like HIV. It also does way with the need for a cold chain, a major cause of vaccine waste in a tropical country like India.

Unlike James and Bennett, Carolyn Belcher, the next speaker, already has hands-on experience in the Indian market. As Senior Director, Strategic Drug Development Services & Programme Management, Constella Group, Belcher has been coming to India for the past decade, and Constella has a non-exclusive partnership with ClinInvent, a CRO promoted by TCG Lifesciences. Belcher relates how she works with very early stage companies, who do not have a lot of fund money and therefore would like to come to India primarily as for its cost effective. However, they still have to battle a “historical” lack of trust and the image of India, thanks to adverse media reports on the unethical way in which clinical trials are done in India. As Belcher points out, trials could go awry anywhere, citing the TeGenero episode.

Summing up, Hawkins, points out that all the UK companies on this mission were “hungry for collaborations” with Indian partners and hoped that this seminar would be the start of many long term partnerships. On this score, Magdani confirms that the coming months are sure to see many alliances and partnerships among Indian pharma companies and CROs.