Serum Institute to launch new vaccines; foray in Europe, US markets by 2020

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Serum Institute chief executive officer Adar Poonawala has called for policy reforms to boost competitiveness as the company plans to launch new vaccines and make a foray in Europe and US markets by 2020.

The 50-year-old Pune based company is the world's largest producer of vaccines by volume and earns most of its revenue from domestic market and from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. On its growth agenda in the next three years is launch of new vaccines to prevent pneumonia, meningitis, cervical cancer and a novel biologic drug to treat dengue. 

On Tuesday, it launched a rotavirus vaccine and a monoclonal antibody (a form of biologic drug) to prevent rabies. The anti-rabies drug, which is a global first has been developed in partnership with Massachusetts Medical School.

“We have a robust product pipeline. There is no other company, which has the entire basket of old and new vaccines,” Poonawala said and added that the company is collectively spending Rs 600-800 crore each year on research and development and capital expenditure.  

The company witnessed 30 per cent revenue CAGR for five years but growth rate slowed down last fiscal on delayed product approvals.  In FY 2016 the company earned Rs 4000 crore in revenue and Poonawala expects it to rise to Rs 10,000 crore in five years with the launch of new vaccines and entry in European market where vaccines are largely sold through private doctors.

He said that changes in government policies were critical for Indian companies to face competition from manufacturers from China and Korea. Poonawala said currently permission to manufacture drugs or vaccines is not granted until successful completion of clinical trials and government should ease this rule as it will save considerable time for manufacturers and improve their competitiveness. “ I am not saying nothing has been done. There have been changes but key reforms need to take place,” he said. 

Poonawala said the company is not looking to sell stake to private equity investors at present and is open to make acquisitions to drive growth.  In April it acquired the Czech arm of a US-based firm- Nanotherapeutics -for 72 million Euros (around Rs 500 crore) This was its second overseas acquisition by the company in a period of five years and is likely to quadruple its injectable polio dosage capacity to 200 million doses a year by 2019.