Biocon plans Rs 100 crore annual research spend

Mumbai: Biotechnology firm Biocon Ltd plans to spend Rs 100 crore on research and development in the financial year ending March 2008.

"We plan to spend Rs 100 crore. It has already crossed the halfway mark," managing director Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said on the sidelines of Fortune Global Forum meet.

Last year the firm spent between Rs 65 crore and Rs 75 crore on research and drug development, she said.

Bangalore-based Biocon, the country's biggest biotechnology company, is in talks with 'many' foreign companies about selling the rights to an insulin pill that may help treat diabetics who depend on the hormone.

An agreement to develop and market the drug, now in early-stage patient studies, may be reached next year, said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. She declined to name the companies.

If successful, the tablet would help the company tap a global insulin market that New York-based MarketResearch.com predicts will reach $14.5 billion within three years. Pfizer Inc. withdrew Exubera, an inhaled product, this month after it failed to catch on with doctors and patients.

“Pfizer's insulin failed because the device was absolutely not user-friendly and I think they made a huge mistake underestimating that challenge,'' Mazumdar-Shaw told reporters in New Delhi.  “We believe oral insulin has a very different role to play and, when you look at even inhaled insulin with its long-term safety issues, oral insulin doesn't have that,'' she added.

Biocon is betting insulin-dependent diabetics will prefer taking a pill to injections that may be painful and raise the risk of infection.

Early next year, Biocon's oral insulin will enter the second of three stages of clinical studies usually needed for a drug's regulatory review, Mazumdar-Shaw said. The tests will be conducted in India and Europe, she added.