Mumbai: The drug research firm of the country’s fourth largest drug maker Nicholas Piramal India Ltd, Piramal Life Sciences Ltd is in talks with a few multinational pharmaceutical firms for collaborative research in anti-inflammation and infectious diseases.
These fields are among four key therapeutic areas, the others being cancer and diabetes, that the company has been focusing on in its research portfolio. Piramal Life announced similar deals in cancer and diabetes some months ago.
“Similar alliances in anti-inflammation and anti-infectives research could be among the next big developments in the company,” said chief executive Somesh Sharma. “We are constantly in talks with companies interested in such mutually beneficial research alliances.”
The collaboration with research-based multinational drug makers is a key strategy for Indian companies, especially those who have hived off their research activities into separate entities to pursue high-cost basic discovery and drug development.
This is mainly because these research companies want to achieve research goals independent of the parent. Multinational firms, in turn, are increasingly looking at partnering with Indian research companies to expedite their drug development process at much lower costs.
In November, Piramal Life entered into a research and development agreement with US multinational drug firm Merck and Co. Inc. to discover and develop new drugs.
Piramal Life is now carrying out an integrated drug discovery programme through pre-clinical candidate selection, followed by investigational new drug studies and human clinical trials mainly for cancer drugs.
In this project, Merck will have an option to advance the drug candidates into late-stage clinical trials and commercialize them, and Piramal Life will be eligible to receive milestone payments of up to $175 million (Rs745.5 crore) and royalties on sales of any product resulting from the joint project.
Following this, Piramal Life in January entered into a drug development deal with another leading US drug maker, Eli Lilly and Co., for conducting clinical trials globally on a select group of pre-clinical drugs, and for marketing these in certain regions. Nicholas director Swati Piramal had said the company would receive up to $100 million plus royalties from the deal.
The country’s largest drug maker by revenue Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd too signed a product development agreement with German pharma multinational Merck KGaA for drug discovery and clinical development collaboration in anti-infectives early this month, after it demerged its research arm into a separate company.
Sharma said Piramal Life will start earning revenues in two-three years through milestone payments from the collaborative projects already signed, and through technology and molecule outlicensing from its own research pipeline. The molecule outlicensing deals will be mainly from non-cancer research, he added.
The company last week started clinical study of its new diabetes compound P1736 in the Netherlands. “This is our sixth research compound in clinical study. We will soon start clinical trials of one of the diabetes drug compounds in India too,” he added.
Piramal Life, after the demerger that was announced early this year, is expected to be listed on the country’s stock exchanges next month. It also proposes to get investments from private equity companies or strategic investors for a 10-15% stake after the listing.