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Drug firms setting up crack R&D teams

March 16, 2005 08:51 IST

Pharmaceutical companies are furiously trying to set up 'research advisory boards' and are scouring the globe for former research heads of pharmaceutical MNCs, faculty heads of research institutes and other drug research experts for the purpose.

Among the companies that are in the process of setting up such boards are Ranbaxy Laboratories, Lupin, Sun Pharmaceuticals, Wockhardt, Strides Arcolab, Orchid Chemicals and a host of other mid-sized firms.

Ipca Laboratories, which is yet to foray into basic research, is also toying with the idea. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals and Nicholas Piramal already have research advisory boards.

D B Gupta, chairman and managing director of Lupin, told Business Standard, "We are setting up two research advisory boards for new chemical entity development and drug delivery research. We are in the process of formalising and signing an agreement with people, who will become their members."

Adds a Sun Pharmaceuticals spokesperson: "We are in the process of setting up a research advisory board that is expected to give valuable inputs for the long-term direction of our research programmes. The pool of experts will bring to the table their experience in the field of discovery research and they will form the company's research think tank."

Research advisory boards have no direct relationship with the statutory board of a company. They are essentially entrusted with the responsibility of providing directional guidance to the research teams of pharmaceutical companies involved in drug discovery research.

"The board periodically conducts a critical review of the progress in ongoing discovery projects. It helps us identify new discovery targets and also advises us on their licensing potential," says Glenn Saldanha, managing director of Glenmark Pharmaceuticals.

Most of those invited to become members of these boards are eminent men. Nicholas Piramal's advisory board, for instance, comprises Ravinder Maini, professor emeritus at London's Imperial College, Bob Chaudhary who holds 15 patents and has 15 years of experience with Novartis Research, and William Jenkins, a former head of clinical research and regulatory affairs at Novartis AG and former head of clinical research at GSK PLC.

Glenmark Pharmaceutical's scientific advisory board members include Professor Jonathan Robert Sanders Arch, deputy director of Metabolic Research, Clore Laboratory, at the University of Buckingham and Professor Clive Page, director of the Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology at King's College, London.

Why would such men join research advisory boards? They're paid relatively well for attending one or two meetings a year. The promoter of a big pharmaceutical company says that they're paid about $25,000, depending on the kind of work they're called on to do.

But Ravi Shankar, chief executive officer of Strides Arcolab, says that it is not an easy job picking the right mix of scientific brains.

"It is a critical task and involves an integrated effort to formalise a talent pool that will provide direction to the company's research and development programme-- one of the key future growth determinant in today's scenario."

Scouting for brains

  • The roster: Firms setting up research boards include Ranbaxy, Lupin, Sun Pharma, Wockhardt and Strides Arcolab
  • Who's on board: Research heads of drug MNCs, faculty heads of research institutes and drug research experts
  • Their mandate: Providing directional guidance to the research teams involved in drug discovery research
Rumi Dutta in Mumbai