Indian biotech’s Eureka moments are here
Two desi firms, Cellworks and Stempeutics, are ready to hit market with pioneering affordable therapies. A report by Suprotip Ghosh.
Suresh (name changed), a farmer in Hoskote, Karnataka, was diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg. The clot in the artery blocked oxygen supply and left him in agony. But an injection formulated by Bangalore-based Stempeutics in 2006 changed his life. The artery was regenerated using stem cells extracted from his bone marrow. Today, he is normal.
Srijani (name changed), 55, was undergoing cancer therapy in Delhi. The drugs killed healthy cells with cancer cells. A new generation of under-development drugs would target just cancer cells. Understanding their effectiveness requires testing on humans, which is not allowed anywhere in the world. Bangalore-based Cellworks came up with a unique solution — computer simulation that predicts how a patient would react to the drugs.
Cellworks and Stempeutics are just two of India's new biotechnology start-ups that are making fairytales like these possible. Cellworks designed the virtual patient, on whom 'virtual medicine' can be tested. Stempeutics works with stem cells, which help regenerate critical body parts.
"We are aiming to create the medical equivalent of Google Maps — a patient or illness that sits inside a computer instead of being alive," said Taher Abbasi, who heads Cellworks. The software would help pharma firms know early whether they are on the right track. New medicines require almost 10 years to develop, and developers need to know early whether they have the potential to work.
Stempeutics uses a type of stem cell found inside bone marrow to make the drug for critical limb ischemia — what Suresh suffered from — that will be available in India soon.