Dr. Manu Chaudhary, Joint MD, Director Research, Venus Remedies Ltd, She is a comprehensive scientist, a skilled researcher and a qualified geneticist with excellent entrepreneurial skills. Dr. Chaudhary has a Doctorate in Business Administration, besides M.Sc and M.Phill (Genetics). She started her career way back in 1992 as Vice President Operations in Venus Remedies. She has almost 20 years of experience in pharmaceutical manufacturing, of which more than 10 years of experience is in R&D. Under her stewardship the company has filed 341 patents for its 13 research products. Dr. Chaudhary has been instrumental in inspiring the team of technical people to secure more than 20+ GMP accreditations for the company’s manufacturing facilities. She developed cost economic and better productivity methods. She even helped the company to develop systems as per GMP and ICH guidelines. Under her leadership as a Director research the company is currently training its eyes on international opportunities to evolve as a global force.
Venus Remedies Ltd. is research and development driven pharmaceutical manufacturing company. It is among the Top 50 pharma companies of India. The Company is listed on the BSE and NSE with a turnover of Rs 3.57bn (FY11). It is present in 60 regulated and semi-regulated countries, actively exporting to more than 20 countries. The Company has two manufacturing locations in India and one in Germany. Venus is top class manufacturer of Oncological and Cephalosporin Injectable products following EU-GMP norms for all is activities. It has 11 overseas offices, 1 R&D center and competent staff of more than 1500 employees. VMRC is the R&D wing of Venus Remedies, approved by the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR), Govt. of India. Venus Remedies is aiming to create intellectual property wealth of One Billion US dollar.
In an exclusive interaction with Hemant P. Maradia of IIFL, Dr. Chaudhary says, “We are all set to launch our research product 'Vancoplus' in USA in early 2014, and Japan in early 2015.”
What kind of opportunities do you see for ‘Vancoplus’ in Japan? Brief us about the product and its potential?
Vancoplus is one of the most effective and safe options available after vaccination, to curb the notorious Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) strain. It is a boon in the medical field as it is not only cost effective but also reduces treatment time. According to one finding, the rate of screen-positive strains was the highest for MRSA strains from South Korea (42%) and Japan (29.9%).
Ignorance about MRSA is a huge problem among the public and media in Japan and the risks and safety issues surrounding MRSA are generally not that well known.
Considering only about 8% of large Japanese hospitals, the cost of MRSA in 2003 was 23,096,600,000 yen (~US$230,000,000 at 2008 exchange rates).
By winning the Japanese patent for Vancoplus, Venus is hopeful of gaining a significant share of the MRSA market in Japan.
Japan has a growing elderly population and high health expenditure with second largest per capita spending in Asia Pacific region.
What kind of response do you see for ‘Vancoplus’ in Japan? What is the market share that you are aiming for?
MRSA’s resistance to Vancomycin, and the prevalence of MRSA in Japan, USA and southern countries range from 20% to 60%. This is increasingly alarming. Our product 'Vancoplus' is the only known remedy to control MRSA, VRSA (Vancomycin Resistance Staphylococcus aureus) and multi-drug resistant bacteria which causes diseases like Meningitis, Typhoid, Urinary Tract infection and so on.
The drug prevents conjugational transfer of resistance and down regulates the Mec A gene and PVL expression by MRSA pathogens. This enables the drug to prevent development and spread of resistance. Hence, exploring the possibility of an expedited approval from regulatory authorities is an opportunity for this drug.
Worldwide, rates of Methicillin resistant S Aureus strains vary dramatically. In 1999, Canada reported a 6% rate, while Japan's rate exceeded 80%. We are hoping to capture at least 20% to 30% of the MRSA market size in Japan with Vancoplus in the first three years of launch.
What is the production capacity for ‘Vancoplus’? Can you ramp up capacity if needed?
We have EU GMP approved manufacturing facilities at Baddi, Himachal Pradesh and Germany. Current manufacturing capacity is sufficient to cater to Asian and European market requirements.
Vancoplus is one such research product of ours, for which sufficient production capacity is in place to deal with the demands from various markets around the globe. However, the capacity can be increased by working in 2-3 shifts.
Tell us about Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)? What is the market size for drugs addressing MRSA? What is the growth rate?
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is exceptionally critical to infection treatment and control in the health-care settings. MRSA has been detected at high levels in Japan. Studies indicate that the incidences of MRSA in the past few years have increased worldwide. Community acquired-MRSA is viewed as a coming threat with an increasing number of domestic cases in the last 3–5 years.
For Japan it is foreseen that MRSA will become a “normal” resident of the populations’ microbial flora; virulent strains will emerge, and an increase of VRSA and other multi-drug resistant MRSA is expected. As per the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in USA, the financial burden of antimicrobial resistance (including direct and indirect costs) may be as high as US$30bn per year.
The market size of MRSA in the world is ~US$900mn. Presently, it is growing with CAGR of 4.8% and is estimated to reach to US$1.2bn by 2017.
In which markets are you currently selling ‘Vancoplus’?
At present, our research product 'Vancoplus' is available in many emerging countries of the globe. Vancoplus is patent protected in countries like USA, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and Ukraine.
Apart from Japan, which other markets are you looking at for ‘Vancoplus’? When do you expect to launch ‘Vancoplus’ in these markets?
Patents from various countries, including EU, are in process. We are the first global pharmaceutical company in the world to have received a patent on antibiotic combination for MRSA in USA for our novel research product 'Vancoplus'.
'Vancoplus' has already been used by more than 25,000 patients and has shown tremendous results. So, we are eyeing patents for Vancoplus from countries like Canada, Europe, Russia, and Brazil.
Tell us about your plans for the overseas markets, especially USA, Europe, UK and Japan?
We are all set to launch our research product 'Vancoplus' in USA in early 2014, and Japan in early 2015. For EU, the patent for Vancoplus is awaited.
Besides this, we intend to out-license Vancoplus across patent protected regions to major pharmaceutical players.
What is your business model focused on? What is the roadmap for growth in the next few years?
Our business model is focused on our own research based products in the fields of Oncology, Anti-infective and Neurology. We have already made good in-roads into Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) that we plan to encash in the near future.
We are one of the very few R&D-led in the world working on AMR. We could foresee the potential of antibiotics fading 10 years back and it is the result of our focused approach that today we have some the SUPER BUG tackling solutions under patent protection. We would like to enhance our penetration in global markets through strategic alliances on the strengths of product ownership and protection.
Give us a sense of your product pipeline? Which are the therapeutic areas will be covered by these drugs? Which will be the target markets for them?
We have a pipeline of 20+ products in Anti-infective, Anti-cancer, Neurology, Wound and Skin care segments, which are under different stages of development. Out of these, eight products are under Phase IV trials, three under Phase III multi-centric trails.
We have successfully completed Phase I & Phase II clinical trials for VRP1620, a cancer detection molecule.
We have also tied up with IMTECH, a renowned Research Centre of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and Development of Microbiology Punjab University to jointly develop a diagnostic kit for typhoid. The kit is expected to reduce disease detection time from 48 hours to few minutes. We are planning to launch these two kits in the market in early next year.
How many patents do you possess at present?
Till date, we have 75 patent grants and 260+ are at the various review stages. Our patent grants cover 51 countries across Europe, Australia, South America, Africa and the ASEAN.
Which are some of your top-selling products? What kind of revenues do they generate for you?
We have a product basket of 75+ drugs, out of which 13 are our novel research products in the segment of Anti Cancer, Anti Infective, Cardiovascular and Neurology related products. We have gained global accolades for our remedy redefining blockbuster brands, such as:
We are in the process of coming up with some revolutionary products in the near future. We presently have a pipeline of around 20+ products, which are at different phases of development.
Tell us about the various global partnerships? Are you looking at any new global alliance?
From an in-house capability-centric model, we have moved to the business-enhancing global partnerships by partnering with global pharmaceutical majors for site variations projects comprising Stada, Germany; Teva, Netherlands, Medicus SA, Greece and Logenex Pharma, Germany.
Venus has entered into in-licensing agreements for two molecules, Novel Amino Glycoside (with patent rights form a Chinese innovator company) and solid tumor detection technology (from the University of Illinois, Chicago).
We have also signed a MoU with Lockheed Martin Foundation and the University of Texas for marketing assistance of a super specialty wound healing product in USA.
Further, Venus has collaborated with more than 20 multinationals thereby making our presence in 6 continents and 60 countries.
Are you open to inorganic growth?
Venus is a research based company and is already enhancing its growth. The grant of patents from worldwide is further boosting the confidence of our research team. Further, more and more products will be launched and Research products will be commercialized as mega brands worldwide.
Having said that, we are open to inorganic growth.
How much of your annual revenues come from exports?
Around 30% of our revenues came from exports in FY 2010-11, which is growing every year.
What are the plans for the Indian market?
The Indian Pharmaceutical Market is a rapidly growing industry driven by formulations for chronic therapies. Additionally, there is a huge untapped antimicrobial resistance (AMR) segment, which is troubling the entire world. We, at Venus Medical Research Centre have made significant breakthroughs in combating menace of antibiotic resistance.
So, with a field force of around 700 skilled marketing professionals; 2000 stockists; 40,000 chemists; 120,000 specialty doctors we aim to enhance our presence in high-growth, high-value therapeutic segments with our novel research products across every nook and corner of the nation.
What is the company’s long-term vision?
We are in the business of preserving and improving human life through innovation. We manufacture medicines for patients, not for profits. Profits will follow.
Our vision is to establish Venus as an innovator company worldwide by developing and commercializing products that provides a complete solution for serious or life-threatening medical conditions.
What are your capacity expansion plans? Will it make sense to relocate your German facility to India?
At present, we have enough space and infrastructure to cater to the rising needs of the market.
At Germany, we have special infrastructure for Quality Certification and packaging. As of now, there are no plans to relocate.
Tell us about your R&D initiatives? How much do you invest in R&D every year?
Investments boost R&D capabilities. The company invested 15.60% of total sales turnover in the year FY 2010-11 to ensure updated and fully equipped modern infrastructure to meet the needs of manufacturing facilities.
The Venus Medical Research Centre aims to develop and formulate new and medically required fixed-dose combinations, novel drug delivery systems, including target based delivery of drugs especially for tumors and nano-technology-based innovation.
What about safety, environment and HR policies?
At Venus, we are committed to comply with all applicable legal environment requirements and have taken a number of initiatives to benchmark its environment management standards to international levels for which it is accredited with the ISO 14001:2004.
And when it comes to safety and health, we believe that he, who has health, has hope and that hope will drive us ahead. This belief has translated into maintaining the highest safety and health standards at our company's facilities. The company received OHSAS 18001:1999 certification, vindicating its international benchmarks.
Besides this, Venus has one the best HR policies in place with innovative concepts of T&T, Venus Army, and Entrepreneur Programme etc. The company's Human Resource policies aimed at developing an empowered, dedicated and motivated workforce, preserving the company's global positioning.
How much debt is there on your books? What is debt-equity ratio?
The Company's debt-equity ratio has improved from 0.84 as on March 31, 2010 to 0.76 as on March 31, 2011, reflecting the sound health of the company's balance sheet.
Will you need to raise funds from the markets?
At present we are not looking at any fund raising from the markets.
What is your message to the shareholders?
We are excited about our prospects as we challenge conventional thinking and transform our identity from a domestic player into a globally respected research based pharmaceutical multi-national, enhancing revenues and profitability.