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Piramal Life Sciences Exits Drug Discovery Business; 200 Scientists Affected

8/28/2014 5:57:35 AM

Piramal Life Sciences Exits Drug Discovery Business; 200 Scientists Affected Piramal Life Sciences Exits Drug Discovery Business; 200 Scientists Affected

August 28, 2014

By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Mumbai, India-based Piramal Enterprises Ltd announced the company will be ending its early-stage development projects, but will continue its generic and contract research business. The company’s subsidiary, Piramal Life Sciences, has about 400 scientists scattered around the globe. About 180 of its employees received an internal memo informing them of the plan and encouraging them to take early retirement or transfer to the company’s generic medicine development and contract research units.

The Vice-Chair of Piramal Enterprises, Swati Piramal, stated, “After a business review, we have taken a decision to stop all the early-stage discovery projects at Piramal Life Sciences and to announce a retirement or relocation scheme for the employees.”

Piramal Enterprises has about 4,984 employees, with about 4,200 in healthcare and about 900 in R&D. Most of the employees are in the pharmaceutical segment, which also accounts for about 67% of annual revenue.

In 2010 Piramal Enterprises sold its India drug formulations business to U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories for $3.72 billion. Piramal owns approximately 295 patents with approximately 808 pending patent applications. The patents are in a wide range of categories, including biomarkers, diagnostics, drug delivery systems, and compositions of matter. The company’s drug research business was separated into a spinoff company in 2008, then merged back into the group in 2011 after divesting the domestic formulations business. However, in 2012 the company’s late-stage biological drug for cancer failed in phase II clinical trials. Currently the company’s pipeline focuses around anti-cancer drugs and treatments for metabolic disorders.
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The group’s shift underlines the difficulties companies face in new drug development, which is very expensive and takes many years to go from discovery to market. Swati Piramal said, “I am basically a scientist and I love the business of science, but as vice-chairman of a larger business group, I am also answerable to the investors. So I had to take a decision, which is most strategic (from) the investor point of view, that is to review the high-cost and long-gestation early-stage discovery business.”

However, Piramal Enterprises stock got a 4% boost after an announcement that it had agreed to develop a joint venture company with Navin Fluorine International to develop, manufacture and market specialty fluorochemicals. Navin will hold 49% of the company with Piramal the remaining 51%. Navine Fluorine International Ltd is headquartered in Mumbai and is one of the largest Indian manufacturers of specialty fluorochemicals, which have a broad range of chemical and manufacturing uses, including agriculture, semiconductor lithography, dyes, and pharmaceuticals. Approximately 50% of all modern pharmaceuticals contain fluorine.

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