BIOCON - from a suburban garage to the
first Asian bio company
The story of the Number One Biotech
Asian Woman Entrepreneur
«Biocon's Billion dollar market
capitalization is an important milestone for Indian
Biotechnology as it demonstrates the power of intellectual
value. Our biggest achievement was gaining global recognition
for the Indian Biotech sector through our very successful
IPO.», says Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, 53
Interview by Jorge
Nascimento Rodrigues, editor of www.gurusonline.tv,
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has been considered the most influential
person in bio business outside the United States and
Europe, according to a online poll conducted by the
Nature Biotechnology Journal in January this year. In
2005 she entered the Fortune list of 50 most powerful
women in international business and she has been referred
to as "India's mother of Invention" by The
New York Times. She is the first Indian Business Women
and the first biotech entrepreneur in Asia.
She graduated in zoology and got a master degree in
malting and brewing and was supposed to follow the steps
of his father, who was chief brew master. But, after
a few years, she started Biocon India in 1978 with two
people in her garage in the backyard of a suburban house
in Bangalore without bank support and being a woman
not from a rich family was a liability in the traditional
Indian society. The small company born from a joint-venture
between the Scottish businessman Leslie Auchincloss,
the owner of the Irish Biocon Biohemicals, and Kiran,
when she worked in the UK for a short period. It was
the pioneer in India - biotechnology was even a complete
new word in the business language in the country in
the 1970's. Biocon India begun in 1978 by extracting
two enzymes for exports - papain and isinglass, from
papaya and a tropical catfish. The first used to make
meat more tender and the second makes beer clearer.
In 1996 she decided to focus strategically the company
on the development of biopharmaceuticals and in 1998
the company becomes independent from the foreign shareholders.
In the last 10 years, Biocon become number one biotech
company in Asia in terms of revenues and market capitalization
and the 16th in the world biotech list. The company
values $1 billion, after the IPO in 2004, and the total
revenues last fiscal year amount $163 million, 16% of
the biotech Indian industry annual revenues.
Biocon wants to be among the Top 3 biotech in the world
in 2010 and expect to develop a potential blockbuster
drug, that could take 2 to 4 years to hit the market.
If successful it would be the first one to come from
Kiran is one of the enthusiasts of the biotech cluster
in India, and particularly about the leadership of Karnataka
State, whose capital is Bangalore. She heads the Biotechnology
Vision Group. She forecast a $5 billion India bio industry
in 2010 with 1 million employees, from the $1b and 25,000
people today. Karnataka State wants to be the bio hotspot
and Bangalore the biotech city in India.
Links of reference:
study | Biocon website
| Karnataka State
What was your most important decision that leveraged
the future success of your company?
The turning point was when Biocon leveraged its technology
platform to enter biopharmaceuticals and statins in
1996. We progressed from discovering novel fungal enzymes
to researching recombinant technologies and human therapeutics.
The foray into biopharmaceuticals was a crucial strategic
move that propelled the company's growth into a different
league. While Biocon focused on developing a strong
fermentation base for the production of enzymes, the
advent of Syngene, India's first Custom Research Company
(a Biocon subsidiary), introduced new skills in chemical
synthesis and recombinant technologies for drug development.
This expertise allowed us to leverage our fermentation
knowledge from enzymes to drug molecules.
«Biocon created a buzz in the
stock market in March 2004 with its hugely successful
IPO. Biocon closed Day One of listing on the bourses
with a market value of $ 1.11 billion, to become only
the second Indian company to cross the $ 1 billion mark
on the day of listing.»
In brief, in the last 27 years, which where the
main shifts in Biocon strategy?
1994: Biocon establishes Syngene International Pvt.
Ltd. as a CRC to address the growing need for outsourced
R&D in the pharmaceutical sector;
1996: The commercial success of Biocon's proprietary
fermentation plant leads to a 3-fold expansion. Biocon
leverages its technology platform to enter biopharmaceuticals
1998: Unilever inks a deal with ICI to sell its speciality
chemicals division of which Quest International is a
part. Unilever agrees to sell its shareholding in Biocon
to the Indian promoters. Biocon becomes an independent
2000: Clinigene, India's first clinical research organisation
and a subsidiary of Biocon, is set up to pursue clinical
research and development;
2004: Biocon created a buzz in the stock market in
March 2004 with its hugely successful IPO. Biocon closed
Day One of listing on the bourses with a market value
of $ 1.11 billion, to become only the second Indian
company to cross the $ 1 billion mark on the day of
Which Biocon invention or pioneer manufacturing
process gave you more satisfaction? If you would define
Biocon, until now, for only one extraordinary moment,
which one will be elected?
We were the first company in India to develop enzymes,
statins and immuno-suppressants. We are the first Asian
company to scale up Human Insulin to a global scale
and today we are the first Indian company to develop
antibodies at commercial scale. A landmark in the evolution
of Biocon's successful R&D effort in Fermentation
is the Plafractor, a patented hybrid bioreactor that
incorporates advanced features of contained fermentation.
Biocon's Billion dollar market capitalization is an
important milestone for Indian Biotechnology as it demonstrates
the power of intellectual value. Our biggest achievement
was gaining global recognition for the Indian Biotech
sector through our very successful IPO.
How do you define the uniqueness of the integrated
innovation approach of Biocon?
Biocon's integrated business model offers expertise
across the drug value chain to mainstream pharma companies
seeking innovative technologies and potential drug candidates.
This integrated approach offers comprehensive and effective
solutions in new drug discovery, clinical research and
commercialization. Syngene offers pharmaceutical majors
multi-specialized custom research capabilities for critical
early-stage development of new drug molecules. Clinigene
provides differentiated clinical capabilities to rapidly
and cost-effectively evaluate new medicine. Biocon extends
its proprietary expertise in process development and
multi-product manufacturing to co-develop & scale-up
a wide range of drugs, from small molecules to recombinant
«With the new TRIPS compliant
IP Rules in force the focus will change more for discovery
research and in the long term Indian companies will
be also playing according to the global rules - the
R&D budget may also increase accordingly as that
is the need of the day. There will be more of discovery
research in the Indian companies leading to more and
more novel drugs.»
Where would you like to see Biocon, say in 10 years
time, with respect to the world market?
The next 10 years are going to be devoted to building
cutting edge capabilities, global credibility and of
course building global scale in our manufacturing and
marketing capabilities. My goal is to make Biocon a
global biotechnology enterprise and my dream is to see
India as a global destination for biotechnology and
other fields. We are already gearing up to attain global
scale. We have Asia's largest Insulin facility. We will
have one of the world's largest Statin facilities. We
will have Asia's largest Monoclonal Antibody facility
and in due course perhaps the world's largest antibody
facility. Our ambition is to be among the top 3 Biotech
To what extent following international patent obligations
(that India recently adhered to) has affected the Indian
Indian companies had not focused on new product research
because of the lack of proper IP protection which in
turn led to the thriving generic pharma business in
India. With the new TRIPS compliant IP Rules in force
the focus will change more for discovery research and
in the long term Indian companies will be also playing
according to the global rules - the R&D budget may
also increase accordingly as that is the need of the
day. There will be more of discovery research in the
Indian companies leading to more and more novel drugs.
In a short term perspective some Indian companies may
opt for collaborative research and co-development of
new molecules or the licensing of technologies/product
for the Indian market.
Do you see Biocon developing an international blockbuster
With Genentech as our benchmark, we aim to produce
the first blockbuster drug to come from India.
Is Biocon investing in stem cell research? What
is the next frontier of R&D in your industry?
At Biocon, Diabetes and Oncology are increasingly emerging
as two important areas for disease research. India's
32 million diabetics, account for one-fourth of the
global diabetic population. These numbers are estimated
to grow to 57.2 million by year 2025. Biocon is committed
to finding biotechnology solutions for customers worldwide.
Our Oral Insulin program is both daring and potentially
of blockbuster proportions if we succeed. Exploring
new treatments in oncology are also critically important
for Biocon given the high incidence of head and neck
cancers worldwide. Our antibody based drug, Biomab,
is being clinically evaluated for its efficacy in treating
such cancers. Our research portfolio does not include
stem cell research at the moment.
What can you comment about the acquisitions' strategy
of Biocon regarding Europe?
Biocon's acquisition strategy in Europe will be based
on acquiring Biotech companies with promising novel
therapeutic products in early or mid stage development.
Do you forecast a merger with an international big
Not at this time.
«India has a lot of intellectual
property and has a great potential to be the R&D
hub in Biotechnology. India will also be seen as the
Contract research and manufacturing hub and this segment
is estimated to be a $4 billion opportunity.»
Biocon is a shining example of a developing country
like India entering into an area, which is considered
knowledge intensive. Do you think India could be the
next hi-tech and science powerhouse of the world?
India is one of the 5 emerging Biotech Leaders in Asia
- Pacific according to a recent E&Y study. India
is currently ranked 3rd in the region based on the number
of biotech companies (96), trailing behind Australia
(228) and China, including Hong Kong (136). India's
position as a biotech player is assuming greater eminence
as we continue to build critical mass in terms of skills
and capabilities. An analysis of events clearly indicates
that Indian biotech companies are getting their fundamentals
firmly in place, business models are maturing, and product
commercialization capabilities are improving. India
has a lot of intellectual property and has a great potential
to be the R&D hub in Biotechnology. India will also
be seen as the Contract research and manufacturing hub
and this segment is estimated to be a $4 billion opportunity.
But we need to build capabilities to address this segment.
We feel that there should be a lot more interaction
between industry and academia. The Indian biotechnology
sector needs to build the capabilities for different
sectors, as it has done for vaccines. We should build
capabilities in clinical trials and discovery research.
To manufacture a drug how much cheaper is it to
do trials and R&D in India than in Europe or the
| Study Average || US cost (In millions) ||India Cost
| Phase1||$20|| 50% less than the average cost in US
| Phase2||$50|| 60% less than the average cost in US
| Phase3||$100|| 60% less than the average cost in US
India also has the advantage of having a large pool
· Trained physicians,
· Nurses, and technical personnel;
· Numerous world-class medical facilities;
· Broadly developed information technology infrastructure;
· A favorable IPR environment after signing the
Do you think possible to implant other R&D facilities
around the world, outside India?
India has a global advantage in R&D. in terms of
delivering high value innovation at low cost. Biocon,
however, clearly recognizes the need to source novel
innovation like we have done with our innovation partners
Vaccinex, Nobex, Bentley, CIMAB and others.
Do you intend to transform Biocon in a multinational
That is certainly the vision ahead.
BIOTECH FIRST LADY PROFILE
(Adapted from Vikipedia)
Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw was educated at the Bishop Cotton
Girls School and Mount Carmel College at Bangalore,
India. After obtaining a B.Sc. Honours degree in Zoology
from Bangalore University in 1973, she joined the Ballarat
University in Melbourne, Australia and qualified as
a master brewer in 1975 to become India's first woman
Brew master. Her father encouraged her in this profession,
as he himself was a master brewer in India. Her professional
career started with the position of trainee brewer in
Carlton & United Beverages in 1974. During 1975-77,
she worked in technical positions in the regions of
Kolkata and Vadodara. In 1978, she went abroad and joined
as Trainee Manager with Biocon Biochemicals Limited
Collaborating with the same Irish firm, she founded
Biocon India in her garage in 1978 in Bangalore. The
initial operation was to extract an enzyme from papaya.
Her application for loans was turned down by banks on
three counts - biotechnology was a new word yet; the
company lacked assets and most importantly, women entrepreneurs
were still a rarity in India. On account of the last
reason, she faced problems in recruiting as well.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw has held several honorary and advisory
positions. A partial list is as follows: Chairperson
and Mission Leader of CII's (Confederation of Indian
industry) National Task Force on Biotechnology; Member,
The Prime Minister's Council on Trade & Industry
in India; Board member, BVGH (Bio-Ventures for Global
Health); Member, Board of Science Foundation, Ireland;
Member, Board of Governors, IIM Bangalore; Chairperson,
Karnataka's Vision Group on Biotechnology Member; Advisory
Council of the Government's Department of Biotechnology;
Vice-President, Association of Women Entrepreneurs of
Karnataka (AWAKE) .
She was termed India's Biotech Queen by The Economist
and Fortune, and India's mother of invention by The
New York Times.
Some of the major awards won by her are: Padma Bhushan(2005);
Honorary Doctorate from Manipal Academy of Higher Education
(MAHE) (2005); Lifetime Achievement Award from Indian
Chamber of Commerce (2005); Honorary Doctorate of Science,
from Ballarat University (2004); The Economic Times
Business Woman of the Year Award (2004); Whirlpool GR8
Women award for Science and Technology (2004); Australian
Alumni High Achiever Award from the IDP Australian Alumni
Association (2003); Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of
the Year Award in Healthcare & Life Sciences Category
(2002); Woman of the Year from the International Women's
Association, Chennai(1998-1999); Padma Shri (1989);
Outstanding Young Person Award by Jaycees (1987); Rotary
award for the Best Model Employer (1983); Outstanding
Contribution Award (AWAKE) (1983); Gold for Best Woman
Entrepreneur, Institute of Marketing Management (1982).