Indian Biogenerics: An Evolving Industry

Indian biogenerics could form a major piece of the global biotherapeutics market in the future.
Feb 01, 2008

Eric Langer
India's pharmaceutical manufacturers currently sell close to 30% of the world's generic therapeutics. Sales of generic versions of biologicals in India have grown rapidly, and that growth will likely expand into export sales over the next decade, according to the joint study, Advances in Biopharmaceutical Technology in India, (February 2008) by BioPlan Associates, Inc., and the Society for Industrial Microbiology.

Biogenerics represent a high-growth sector in India, where recombinant insulin, granulocyte cell stimulating factor (G-CSF), interferon alpha, erythropoietin (EPO), monoclonal antibody (MAb) products, and recombinant vaccines are manufactured by a number of domestic biotech companies. The costs of Western-made biopharmaceutical products places them out of reach of much of the world, and many of these products are close to losing their patent protections. To assist the Indian biotech industry in seizing this opportunity, the Indian government has streamlined some of its drug application and review procedures, and has offered strong tax incentives. As a result, India's biotech industry has been investing heavily in the development of facilities. It is expected that Indian biogenerics makers will soon receive their first approvals to manufacture products for the European market.

"Indian companies such as Biocon, Dr. Reddy's Laboratory, Intas Pharmaceuticals, MJ Biopharma, and others have the skills to develop and manufacture recombinant biotech products," says Ashesh Kumar, PhD, head of Medipolis GMP. These products include hepatitis B vaccine, streptokinase, human insulin, G-CSF, EPO, human growth hormone (HGH), interferon alpha-2a, and MAbs for cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma.


Following the success of its generic pharmaceutical industry, Indian policy makers plan to repeat this in the biogeneric sector. Indian biotech revenues, currently at about $2 billion, are projected to reach $5 billion by 2010. Already, nearly 60% of these revenues are from exports.1 The year 2005 was an important milestone for Indian biotechnology as revenues crossed $1 billion.2


The success demonstrated by India's small molecule generic drug industry may not be a easily duplicated, however, for several reasons.

  • The research infrastructure, academic network, and overall talent pool are small compared to those supporting the traditional pharmaceuticals industry.
  • There have been greater regulatory hurdles for biologics in major markets, in particular, the lack of bioequivalence laws in the US, and the lack, until recently, in Europe.
  • The costs and the technical challenges of making biogenerics are higher than for traditional chemically synthesized generics.

Yet, India seems intent on developing a world-class biotech capability. Even in the early 1980s, when Genentech and other American biotech companies were just beginning to make headlines, the Indian government initiated a program to promote its own biotech industry. In 1982, the National Biotechnology Board was set up under the Ministry of Science and Technology and became the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in 1986. The DBT now spends close to $200 million annually to develop biotech resources in the country, including the expansion and improvement of academic programs, the development of more and better infrastructure, the nurturing of biotech companies, and the improvement of technology transfer to businesses from universities and other noncommercial laboratories.

This enthusiasm for biotech springs partly from an appreciation that biotherapeutics represent the future of medicine. But Indians also see in biotech an advanced, high-tech industry more in keeping with the image they expect of their country. Immensely proud of their world-class IT industry, Indians would like to mirror this in biotech, thus becoming "one of the nations to be counted" in the world community.3 And a natural step is for the country to become a major producer of generic biologics.


Blockbuster first-generation biotherapeutics developed in the West are already starting to lose patent protection in Western markets, and in the next decade, even second-generation products will begin to go off-patent. The biogenerics markets in Europe and the US together could amount to more than $15 billion in the next three years, at an average annual growth rate of close to 70%.