Cipla to set up biotech plant in South Africa

Cipla is investing 1.3 billion South African Rand (about Rs 600 crore ) in a biotech plant in South Africa as it aims to make cancer drugs affordable and grow its presence in the market.

The announcement was made on Friday, coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to South Africa. Cipla Biotech, a subsidiary of the company, will construct the plant at a special economic zone in Durban and will commence production in 2018.

Cipla acquired South African drug firm Medpro in 2013, its first Ciplalarge overseas acquisition and has been ramping up its presence in the country. The announcement for a new biosimilar manufacturing facility follows its investment in a new distribution centre and an upgrade to an existing manufacturing plant in South Africa. The South African market contributed around 14% to the company’s consolidated sales in FY15.

Over a decade ago, Cipla had shot to limelight offering low-cost antiretroviral drugs for AIDS treatment and drawing criticism from global drug makers which have accused the Indian company of copying their innovation.

In a statement, Paul Miller CEO of Cipla Medpro said in South Africa people without access to private insurance have limited or no access to any biologic medicine due to very high prices of innovator molecules. Currently, about 1-in-50 patients in Africa have access to biologic medication. “We are striving to reduce this number to 1-in-5 patients through the production and supply of biosimilar medication at an affordable price. This embraces Cipla ethos for advancing healthcare for all.”

Subhanu Saxena, global CEO of Cipla, said Cipla’s investment in the facility will enable the creation of first biocluster in Africa.

According to a report in South African media, Cipla BioTec was developing a portfolio of eight to 10 biosimilars. Clinical trials for Cipla BioTec’s version were under way and it is expected to submit regulatory filings in 2018, with a view to marketing the product in 2019, the report said.

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