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Evolva Biotech: Evolving Spirit

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Providing innovative, high value, sustainable ingredients, in particular for the health, wellness and nutrition segment, Evolva Biotech aims to stay ahead in the race and imbibe new discoveries By Usha Sharma

Headquartered in Switzerland and having its Indian subsidiary in Chennai, Evolva Biotech is a recognised name not only in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry but also in the food and beverage, abd consumer health sectors. Established in 2005, the company started its business operations in drug development and later decided to focus on high value ingredients with relatively low production volumes in flavour and fragrances segment for varied industries and is now growing impressively.

The HY2014 results for the period January 1- June 30, 2014 show a 25 per cent increase in revenues to CHF 5.0 million, with costs under control, and a strengthened cash position. About 91 per cent of revenues is from research fees and milestone payments from the company’s corporate partners, i.e. Cargill, IFF, Ajinomoto, Roquette and L’Oréal while the remaining were generated from several research projects funded by the EU and national institutions. Evolva expects revenues for the full year 2014 to reach at least CHF 10 million as against 2013 revenues of CHF 8.7 million.

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Dr Panchapagesa Murali

Dr Panchapagesa Murali, Chief Executive Officer, Evolva Biotech says, “Evolva has a platform technology which is capable of biosynthetically making small molecules. We continue to have the capabilities to carry out pathbreaking ways of synthesising expensive intermediates or complex intermediates which is not very amenable through synthetic chemistry. Small molecules have application in sectors ranging from pharma, agri, Flavour and Fragrance (F&F), health and wellness etc. Our current focus is on the F&F segment where the company has forged a number of partnerships. The core platform technology continues to be same.”

Tech-driven approach

The company is capable of stitching a biosynthetic pathway which has a number of steps to make small molecules. “We are global leaders with respect to optimising the stitched pathways for commercial fermentation. We have also developed important tool kits. For example, our glycosylation platform can improve the characteristics of a molecule making it either more available or soluble,” adds Murali.

Evolva discovers and provides innovative, high value, sustainable ingredients, particularly in the health, wellness and nutrition segment. The company believes in nature which contains a wealth of ingredients that can benefit humanity. But many, indeed most, of these ingredients cannot be viably and sustainably sourced from nature. Most plants and animals are rare, few are suited to large scale agriculture and none have evolved solely to meet the needs of people.

It may be noted that recently many biotech companies, which believed in diversifying their business, also explored other avenues by not restricting ed their operations to one segment. Observing this trend, Murali emphasises, “The popular saying in the biotech industry is that it is always plan B that works. However, having said that in a lighter vein, generally a biotech company’s core engine will remain mostly unchanged. It is only the application areas that could change.”

While reasoning the key reasons behind lack of funding/ investors, weak global economic conditions, inability to meet up to initial expectations of the business of R&D /drug development, Murali strongly feels, “This is largely dictated by requirements of the market needs. 2014 has been a very good year for funding and IPO’s for the biotech market.”

The company believes that modern biology is all about staying ahead and nurturing and imbibing new discoveries. Murali unveils the company’s new technologies which are in the pipeline and informs, “Our scientists are constantly working on developing innovate technologies to stay ahead. We have a few hundred patents on important biosynthetic pathways, which has industrial applications. Products like resveratrol, stevia and molecules from saffron are all in the pipeline.”

Growing inorganically

Recently, Evolva Holding SA announced that Emergent BioSolutions has acquired Evolva’s anti-bacterial programme, the EV-035 series. The lead compound in the EV-035 series is the broad-spectrum antibiotic GC-072, which is being developed with the US government’s bio-defense funding. This transaction is worth up to $70.5 million plus royalties.

GC-072 has shown efficacy in both in-vitro and in-vivo studies against a wide range of bacterial pathogens, most notably Burkholderia pseudomallei. This bacterium causes the disease melioidosis and is regarded as a potential bio-threat agent. The preclinical development of GC-072 is funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of the US Department of Defense. Evolva and Emergent are working closely with DTRA on the transfer of the funding contract to Emergent, and expect this process to be completed within the next few weeks.

Commenting on the company’s future plans, he mentioned, “We are a public company and hence I cannot share our future plans. However, like all other companies, ours too is focused on all new product launches for the next two to three years. Whatever manpower and resources that are needed for the successful launch of these products will therefore be deployed by the company. We are upbeat about all the opportunities that Asia is showcasing. We have a good establishment in India since 2006 and happy to see the changes through the initiatives taken by our current Prime Minister.”

While revealing the company’s financial performance, Murali says, “We have revenues to the tune of $9-10 million. The company is not making profits as it is a typical biotech company focusing on research and development. Our market cap is upwards of $ 400 million.”

The company’s diversification strategy and future success hinges solely on the management’s ability to quickly identify future business possibilities leveraging its technology platforms and take swift action in order to evolve to the next level.

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