Express Pharma

Indian CRO industry is rich and diverse

Ajay Tandon, Managing Director, Veeda Clinical Research, talks to Akanki Sharma about the potential of Indian CROs, Veeda's contribution to the industry, its investments and plans, and much more

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What is the current scenario and potential of the Indian CRO industry in comparison to the global CRO market?
The Indian CRO industry is rich and diverse in terms of focus, capabilities, globality and operating scale. There are several CROs focussed on one or more segments spanning contract research, contract development, pre-clinical, clinical and contract manufacturing services. The industry benefits from a rich ecosystem of high-quality scientists, doctors, research professionals and other enabling factors, including a globally-recognised pharmaceutical industry that supports CRO capability development, as is the case in many industries globally that benefit from strong domestic industry dynamics.

Comparatively, the Indian CRO industry is still under weight, globally vis-a-vis its potential and has significant opportunity to grow by leveraging our rich ecosystem in India and staying focussed on delivering scientific and operational excellence with an uncompromising commitment to the quality of the research data generated.

Give us a brief overview of Veeda Clinical Research and its contribution to the overall CRO industry.
Veeda Clinical Research, together with its subsidiary, Bioneeds India, and its joint venture, Ingenuity Biosciences, offers a comprehensive portfolio of clinical, pre-clinical and bio/analytical services to support innovator, biosimilar and generic drug development programmes of our global clientele.

We are an independent, institutional investors-owned, Board-governed and professionally managed contract research group offering scientific leadership, global quality management systems and long-term operational and financial stability through a continuing investment in our people, processes, systems, infrastructure and technology and a deep commitment to quality.

Together, we serve clients globally in pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical, agro-chemical and industrial chemicals, herbal/nutraceuticals and medical devices industries.

The Veeda group entities offer distinct services, both as independent modules as well as integrated services. Veeda Research offers a comprehensive portfolio of clinical research services that include early phase bioavailability, bioequivalence and clinical pharmacology studies, late-phase clinical trials, bioanalytics, biopharmaceutics and data management. Bioneeds offers a comprehensive portfolio drug discovery and development, pre-clinical and bio/analytical services. Ingenuity Biosciences, a joint venture with Somru BioScience, offers a comprehensive range of bio/analytical services for biosimilar and vaccine development.

In an industry where innovation is increasingly multi-faceted and collaborative, we aspire to be the research partner of choice for innovative (bio)pharmaceutical companies worldwide for their critical product development programmes and the pre-eminent independent Indian contract research organisation, with global execution capabilities, distinguished by the breadth of our services and by excellence in the quality of our scientific and regulatory knowledge; research design, execution and insights; and client centricity.

What is the revenue share among Veeda’sservice/product lines? Which ones are projected to have the highest growth rate?
We see significant growth opportunities in all our service lines across the group, including bioequivalence, early-phase clinical pharmacology and late-phase clinical trials, drug development, pre-clinical and bio/analytical services and have focussed strategies for these verticals, both organic and inorganic. Our strong credentials and the breadth of service offering position us favourably to service our global clientele that include innovator, biosimilar and generic pharmaceutical companies.

The company has plans to raise Rs 500-700 crores from an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and Offer For Sale (OFS). What is its purpose?
We will continue to invest, organically and inorganically, in broadening and deepening our service capabilities to support development of complex and novel generics and innovative drug products globally, and will regularly evaluate alternative options for raising capital to support our growth initiatives.

In a recent interview, you had said that your company is seeing enquiries from multi-national companies (MNCs) to conduct clinical trials for their drugs. Kindly elaborate on this.
Over the years, we have developed a global clientele across most key markets that include the US, Europe, Asia, including China and several other ROW markets, besides our clients in India. Our clientele include some of the leading pharmaceutical companies in different markets. We have steadily built a reputation for delivering high-quality and complex trials for them across multiple therapeutic areas, including oncology, psychiatry, cardiovascular, ophthalmology, diabetology and others. With the significant focus on development of biosimilars, vaccines and COVID-targetted therapeutics, we are working with several clients in supporting their clinical and pre-clinical research requirements for these.

We continue to see significant potential in deepening our engagement with our existing clients through a broader offering of services as well as enhancing our penetration in some of the key global markets to service more clients. In particular, we are relatively under weighted in the US in the context of the market potential for our services and we would focus on addressing this.

Recently, the company also acquired a controlling stake of 50.1 per cent in Bengaluru-based CRO Bioneeds. Tell us about your vision behind this acquisition. How will it function and what does it intend to achieve?
Veeda’s investment in Bioneeds has been driven by our mission to offer a comprehensive portfolio of drug development services panning clinical, pre-clinical and bio/analytical services to innovative pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, globally. Our capabilities are distinct with multiple adjacencies and we see significant synergies across our clients and geographical markets to cross leverage our capabilities and offer customised integrated research solutions for our clients. We are working towards further aligning our capabilities, systems, processes and people to realise the full potential of our combination.

In July too, you had announced fund raising of $16 million through Sabre Partners. What is the current status of this deal, and what’s next in the pipeline?
We have closed the investment from Sabre Partners and a group of eminent HNI investors. The funds were deployed primarily for the acquisition of Bioneeds besides ongoing investment in capability enhancement in our clinical and biopharma research services.

As mentioned earlier, we will continue to invest, organically and inorganically, in broadening and deepening our service capabilities to support development of complex and novel generics and innovative drug products, globally, and will regularly evaluate alternative options for raising capital to support our growth initiatives.

Tell us about your business expansion plans for the next five years.
We continue to see significant growth potential in generics with the long pipeline of products scheduled to go off-patent in the near-to-medium term. There is significant development in biosimilars as well, given the scheduled patent expiries, and we have been strengthening our capabilities to fully service this segment, including the development of dedicated laboratories under Ingenuity Biosciences and Bioneeds. We also see increasing potential for conducting late-phase clinical trials in India across a spectrum of drug products and therapeutic areas, as discussed earlier, and have been investing in our team, processes and technology to support our global clientele in these. We believe that cross-leveraging the capabilities and clientele across Veeda and Bioneeds will augment our growth potential in the coming years.

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