ur next stop for our first day in Bangalore was the research center of the first and largest biotech firm in India - Biocon.
Biocon is leading the pack of biotech companies that are pushing India's image as the "pharmacy of the world." This company specializes in developing drugs for diabetes, cancer, immunotherapy, kidney diseases, and cardiology.
We were deeply honored that Biocon's founder herself, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, took the time to personally meet us and give us the briefing on the company that she started back in 1978, in her own garage in Bangalore.
According to a profile story that US-based magazine The New Yorker did on her early this year, Mazumdar-Shaw studied in Australia to become a brewer like her father. But when she returned to India afterwards, she found herself without a job due to the lack of opportunities for female brewers in that country at that time.
So she struck a partnership with an Irish businessman and went on to form her own enzyme production company. She basically built Biocon from the ground-up in her own garage. Mazumdar-Shaw is a self-made woman who found a way to fight the odds in a country like India where women are still expected to stay at home, clean house and look after the kids.
All these were swirling inside my head when I sat in the audience in front of her, the richest, self-made woman in India, as she talked about how Biocon is developing its own drugs for international and domestic markets.
The fact that she took the time to meet us and talk to us ASEAN journalists is a demonstration of how hands-on she is with her job as chairman and managing director of Biocon. She even gave time for a Q&A after her presentation. She could have easily left that to her PR people, like what happend with the other organizations that we visited. But she didn't, and that impressed the heck out of me.
Biocon brands itself as a “gobal pharmaceutical innovator." It is the first in the world to manufacture a human insulin under the name Insugen, now available in Latin America, Middle East, Asia and North Africa.
In 2011, it struck a $200-million deal with Pfizer to commercialize its insulins portfolio. Pushed by the growing demand worldwide for its biosimilar version of insulin for diabetes treatment, Biocon announced last year the construction of its first international manufacturing facility in Malaysia.
After Mazumdar-Shaw's briefing, we were given a short tour of Biocon's oncology lab. We didn't see much there as outsiders are not allowed inside the actual laboratories where they cook up the drugs.
In the same story that appeared in The New Yorker, Mazumdar-Shaw said that she “would love to see one of (Biocon's) novel drugs make it big with the ‘Made in India’ label.”
There is actually a Made in India product that's already flying the international skies for quite some time now. You'll find out in my next post!
This post is part of my 7 Days of Incredible India series. In case you missed the previous posts in this series, click on the following (at your own risk!) :
India Day 1: 'Freaking Cold'
Day 2, Part 1: Honking Our Way to Taj Mahal
Day 2, Part 2: The Massive Red Agra Fort
Day 3: 3 Idiots Made My Day
Day 4: The Dialogues
Day 5: Brainy Bangalore
Day 6, Part 1: A City Called Infosys
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