Gabriel Perera, Director, Product Development and Business Development – Asia, Blackmores, talks about tropical diseases in India and possibilities of sharing R&D expertise between Indian and Australian pharmaceutical companies, in discussion with Sachin Jagdale
What are your observations about treatments/ medicines available in India for tropical diseases?
Based upon my recent visit to several Indian pharma companies, it certainly appears that they are very focussed on developing quality products to address the burden of tropical diseases. Additionally, several of Australia’s leading universities based in our tropical far north are working on innovative natural and synthetic therapies that may be of benefit. It was also apparent that there are still several unmet medical needs in this area.
What kind of association are you looking at with Indian pharma companies?
This is still being determined – conversations we have had so far include possible marketing, sales and distribution collaborations in specific states or across India more broadly.
Australia has very good R&D expertise and infrastructure. Will you be helping Indian counterparts build such infrastructure in India as well?
Yes, certainly where that is relevant. We are fortunate to have a long tradition of research in natural medicines in Australia that we hope may be of benefit to both the academic sector and to any potential commercial collaborators in India.
Do you use Ayurvedic ingredients in your products? Please elaborate
Blackmores produces products and formulations which are naturopathic, supported by evidence, both primary and secondary source. Often, we use ingredients from the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia, drawing references from both traditional (e.g. Charaka Samhita) and contemporary scientific literature.
For example; we use Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in a number of our formulations, alongside supporting vitamins, nutrients and herbs and we use Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) in several more formulations. Most recently, we’ve launched a product for cognitive function, where the primary ingredient is a highly concentrated turmeric (Curcuma longa) extract, standardised to curcumin.
A huge section of Indian population is still not aware of complementary medicines or nutraceuticals. How are you going to handle this challenge?
I would respectfully beg to differ. In my opinion, India has an incredible tradition of complementary medicines and therapies used in Ayurveda. What we have found in other countries who also share a rich local medical tradition is that their appreciation and understanding of self-care is very strong. In parallel, we are fortunate that our business Blackmores as well as the Australian vitamins and dietary supplements industry and manufacturing environment has a strong international reputation for quality and regulatory controls. Finally, our fundamental approach is one of education – educating health professionals, pharmacists and other allied health professionals about the evidence supporting a particular ingredient or product, while in parallel providing a very high level of education and information to health consumers to support their health decision making.
What is your take on Indian Government’s approach towards handling tropical diseases?
My takeaway from attending the Australia Business Week and learning directly from some of your leading public health experts and academics, through presentations and conversation, was a real sense of optimism in this regard – both with respect to the Indian Government’s commitment to addressing the burden of tropical diseases and in the level of innovation that was apparent in your medical schools and universities. I would hope this would positively impact the fight against tropical diseases.
What are your future plans for the Indian markets?
We are actively exploring the opportunity to address the Indian market and greatly appreciate the hospitality and conversations we have had with significant Indian industry players to date.