Managing Director and CEO Glenmark Pharmaceuticals India
Where does the company stand today with respect to its motto “To emerge as a leading integrated research-based global pharmaceutical company.?
When we began the process of discovery research in 2000, very few believed that we could do it. We were clear at that time and even now that innovation was the only way for sustained growth and for that one had to venture into high-end discovery research. Today, we are leaders in the drug discovery sphere in India and have a rich pipeline of 13 molecules (NCEs and NBEs) of which eight molecules are in clinics (including Crofelemer for HIV associated diarrhoea in-licensed from Napo).
To have eight molecules in clinics is a significant achievement. All the molecules which are in clinics are either first-in-class or best-in-class targeting chronic diseases ailing the world. In the next financial year, we will have two of these eight molecules entering phase III trials, and three more starting phase II trials. Each of the molecules is a potential blockbuster with peak sales opportunity of US$ 1 billion to US$ 3 billion. We have always believed, even in the area of discovery research to do cutting-edge work and the peak sales opportunity for each molecule validates that fact. For instance our latest molecule which is filed for Phase I trials in the UK i.e. GRC 15300 for Osteoarthritic pain, Neuropathic pain, and other Inflammatory pain conditions globally, will be the first TRPV3 molecule to enter clinical trials. We have made significant progress regarding our vision, but we still have a long way to go.
What has been the role of international partnerships in Glenmark’s success over the last few years?
Discovering a new chemical entity and seeing the molecule all the way till the end requires a sizeable investment. A single new chemical entity which runs through preclinical and clinical development can cost companies millions of dollars. Also it’s a zero-sum investment if the molecule fails. Thus one has to look at various options when venturing into discovery research. Though we are doing pioneering work in the area of discovery research we must keep the risk factor in mind and partner with global pharmaceuticals organisations to share the risks and benefits. In the last five odd years, we have struck four out-licensing deals collecting around Rs. 500 crore in cash as milestone payments. One must note that unless your research is world-class the Big Pharma will not be willing to participate in the process. These partnerships have not only boosted our research efforts but also helped sustain our investment in the area of discovery.
What went into building the drug discovery capability and the product pipeline at Glenmark?
Excellent scientific talent along with focussed selection of targets and therapeutic areas have been the key differentiators in building the pipeline. In addition to this, well-planned schedules and advice from an excellent scientific advisory board and key opinion leaders have backed the target identification process from time to time.
How do you hedge the risks while improving the success rate of your drug discovery programmes?
We have considered the route of out-licensing our molecules to Big Pharma once the molecule reaches Phase I / Phase II trials as part of our strategy to hedge our risks. While partnering with Big Pharma, we look to close deals that will give them the rights for that molecule for three regions in the world—North America, Europe and Japan. The rights for the molecule in other parts of the world remain with us. So if a molecule reaches the market place, the partner (Big Pharma) will have rights to sell the newly approved drug in these three regions. They will pay Glenmark royalties on sales. In other parts of the world, Glenmark will directly sell the newly approved drug.
What are the current priorities for the company in its drug discovery programme?
With eight molecules under clinical trials, we have clearly demonstrated that we have one of the best pipelines in the area of drug discovery. The molecules that are in the clinics are potential blockbusters with sales opportunity for each molecule being in the range of US$ 1 to 3 billion. We will continue to step up the pace of our discovery programme and look to push molecules ahead in clinical development. At the same time, we will actively pursue out-licensing opportunities for few of our molecules which are in clinical development.
What has been Glenmark’s experience with innovation?
Innovation has to start at the top. A considerable amount of time needs to be spent on developing and sustaining innovation, and making it clear that it is fundamental to the company’s success. A second thing is bringing people together who share a common vision, providing them with the resources to pursue that vision, and giving them the autonomy and responsibility for executing against that vision. Most innovators thrive on empowerment, so you need to make sure the structure and the decision-making in your organisation genuinely have that quality. The third thing is having access to the capital needed to support innovation. This has always been an issue for smaller and mid-sized companies, and, in the current environment, is even an issue for large companies. Now more than ever, you need to be selective about the ideas you pursue.
At Glenmark, innovation has been the defining factor in our success. We have managed to do what very few pharma companies have done in the world. We have continuously developed new molecules, cut out-licensing deals, expanded our presence in new markets and built a strong generics business, all within a short span of a few years. When we look ahead, sustaining this growth is going to be the single biggest challenge and I have no doubt that innovation will continue to be the differentiator.