Out-licensing yes, but with a more ‘mature’ approach, says Glenn Saldanha
Glenn Saldanha does not believe that Glenmark has fallen silent on the licensing front.
The next 12 to 18 months will see the company venture into out-licensing pacts with global partners to develop prospective drugs from the Glenmark stable, says Saldanha, Chairman and Managing Director. Only this time, the pacts will be approached with more “maturity”, as opposed to “doing deals for the next big cheque,” he says, reflecting on the company’s evolving strategy.
“It’s more a timing issue. We’ve not slowed down in terms of work ….it’s just that we’ve been building up the pipeline,” he says, optimistic about their BEAT antibody technology platform. (The technology facilitates efficient development and manufacture of antibodies with dual specificities.) “To build a platform technology, to build capabilities, it has taken us some time to get there. But now we are at a very different place as far as research goes,” he says, explaining the perceived silence from a company that was once seen as being ahead of the pack in outlicensing products.
“If I look back at our evolution, up to 2011 we were very aggressive in outlicensing. We cut seven licensing deals up to 2008…then 2010 and 11 also we did these two deals with Sanofi,” he recalls. More recently Glenmark said its contract with Sanofi (who was testing Glenmark’s GBR 900 for treating multiple sclerosis) had been terminated and Glenmark was now open to scout for new partners to relicense GBR 500, a monoclonal antibody. Without getting into details on products expected to be first off the out-licensing block, he points to oncology and immunology as sought after segments.
Zetia, coming soon
Another critical event on Glenmark’s radar comes up in December 2016, when the company will be able to sell its generically similar version of cholesterol-lowering drug Zetia in the US. Glenmark had settled a patent case with innovator Merck & Co on this blockbuster drug and is expected to get a period of exclusive sales on the drug.
Zetia would contribute to Glenmark’s revenues into next year, says Saldanha, indicating that in the post-Zetia environment they could look at making some “bolt on” acquisitions, but nothing “transformational”. He was responding to a query on his counterparts including Sun Pharma, Lupin and Cipla going after massive acquisitions in India and overseas.
“We defined our future based on products and research. ..We are at a point where we are saying that you had rather spend incremental monies on developing products rather than going and buying companies. ..that’s our perspective on acquisitions at least in the near term.” says Saldanha. The goal, he adds, is to become an innovations-led company. “That’s the strategic direction and that’s where we are placing all our bets even today.”
Explaining the company’s 2014 decision to merge its speciality and generics arms, about seven years after it had demerged them (2007), he said the plan was to replicate a model that was similar to the Novartis – Sandoz model – running a generic and innovative company separately. Later though, companies changed strategy and were operating across the value chain. “The whole landscape has changed very dramatically,” he says, explaining their decision to operate on a geographic model that gives country heads greater flexibility to work across lines of businesses as opposed to being limited to a specific vertical.
With the Zetia launch on the calendar, Glenmark is looking to end the year with revenues of about Rs.9,500 crore. The company currently has a debt of Rs. 3,200 crore. But the management expects cash revenues from Zetia to address part of the debt repayment, as would its other measures, including rejigging the debt portfolio and equity infusion by Temasek (Singapore government’s investment arm), last year.