"Our accrued expertise over the period of time helps us to be effective in the evolving industrial demands" Satish

Satish Varma,
Managing Director, Fermenta Biotech Limited
"Green manufacturing approaches in pharmaceuticals assumes prime importance due to its sheer size as well as the overall alleviation effect it potentially brings to already stressed environmentally nonbenign chemical process", says Satish Varma, Managing Director, Fermenta Biotech Limited. In an interview with Mahesh Kallayil, he further discusses Indian Biopharma market, Fermenta's journey so far, future plans and many more. Excerpts from the interview.

Please tell us about the performance of Fermenta Biotech during the past few years highlighting the latest achievement, strengths and capabilities of the company?
Across all the verticals of Fermenta, we have poised a significant growth, which was made possible by our enhanced productivity, quality and economics combined with our strategic commitment towards customer centricity.

Our Vitamin D business vertical which continues to be our strength area has shown positive growth due to the various global marketing and sales initiatives taken by us. The domestic market continues to grow as the sales and marketing efforts of our company is augmented with increase in awareness about Vitamin D deficiency and its consequences.

In our enzyme catalyst business, we reported a stable business amidst a tough competition from imported technologies. Notwithstanding, we believe that there is a growing scope for enzyme catalyst as customers the world over seek to replace conventional chemical processes with bio-enzymatic equivalents that deliver a more environment-friendly, more efficient and more cost-effective solution marked by higher product purity. With more companies shifting towards a "green' make over towards enzyme enabled manufacturing, we commit to stay focused on what we do.

Our environmental solutions division, the latest offering of ours has seen a positive growth trend. Key stakeholders have now recognized the need for robust biotech solutions for glaring environmental issues in the field of Solid and liquid waste management systems, pond and lake bio-remediation. The organization is committed to offer a plethora of solutions for complex environmental issues and is all set in introducing a range of novel product line in the current year.

What sets Fermenta apart from other Biotech companies with similar offerings?
Fermenta has been a pioneer in immobilized enzyme technology for the past three decades. It has always provided an integrated approach, spanning from enzyme discovery, development and delivery as an immobilized enzyme technology platform.

This unique spectrum of skill sets is what makes us special. Our accrued expertise over the period of time helps us to be effective in the evolving industrial demands and challenges. It also enables us to provide customized solutions on any particular immobilization challenge.

A successful enzyme technology platform means a successful, scalable and customizable solution and that is our core strength which makes us stand apart.

May we have your thoughts on green manufacturing in Pharma?
Across various geographies a paradigm shift in manufacturing mind-set, defined figuratively as "Green manufacturing" has emerged as a trend in developed economies. Green manufacturing generically re-defines the existing production system by adhering to various smarter, benign and eco-efficient strategies.

Green manufacturing approaches in pharmaceuticals as sumesprime importance due to its sheer size as well as the overall alleviation effect it potentially brings to already stressed environmentally non-benign chemical process. Apart from reducing the pollution footprint and being cost effective, green approaches leads to cleaner and safer manufacturing shop floors and more pure final products with significantly low impurity carry over, thus reducing the both occupational and consumption health risk perspectives.

From Fermenta's perspective, we have been one of the key players in bringing this large scale transformation into reality and continue to effectively catalyze this transition.

Over the past several years, what are some of the changes that you've noticed in enzyme development, and how has Fermenta responded to these changes?
For the past five years, there has been a wealth of research on enzyme development, from various perspectives. Ranging from developing an enzyme with a new attribute to inventing a new target enzyme and providing extra attribute to a known enzyme's performance this field has seen it all. Since the enzymatic processes has already reached a "at par acceptance status" in replacing the traditional chemistry, the next expectation from an enzyme is to stay cost effective on day to day basis. This indeed was a dynamic, challenging and shifting goal post for enzyme research.

With several strategic decisions taken on enzyme development and creating effective and rigorous experimental design, Fermenta could positively respond to these changes and hence continue to maintain its pioneering and leadership status in this space.

Central government has identified Biotec has one among the 25 key industries to be covered in Make in India initiative. As a leading biotech company, how you perceive this and going to reap the benefit?
The Make in India initiative has energized various sectors and biotech is not an exception, particularly at a time India is perceived to be the next global biotech hub. India already has many of the necessary ingredients such as talented and enthusiastic scientific workforce and basic infrastructure needed in order to grow its bio-economy.

A systematic nurturing and support from the Government in scaling up the opportunities across various realms of biotechnology including environmental biotechnology would work wonders for us. As a biotech company, Fermenta is keen to get associated with the Make in India initiative and be a part of transforming our nation into a global manufacturing destination in the field of biotechnology.

Are there specific policies, regulatory or other issues currently in place that hinder research& development biotech? What action would you like the government to take to further improve the Biopharma arena in India ?
Yes, It is indeed promising to see that the regulatory framework is getting more stringent and at the same time the compliance level from industry is also increasing. Though for general API's as well as biopharmaceuticals, the regulatory pathway is well defined and controlled, the new age enzyme enabled "green" manufacturing practices is still evolving and hence there may be some teething issues at the time of developing specific regulatory guidelines for this niche. For instance, concerns on biosafety from the protein/enzyme carry over on the final API were a point of concern, especially when there are no established pharmacopeia standards.

This situation is changing with concerted efforts being made by various agencies and industry groups and hence we are building these regulatory parameters in our research program.

How do you go about getting funding for R & D?
Our R & D funding is from internal accruals only and our commitment to R & D is quite significant.