Friday 20 April 2018

Harney-backed Biocon launches 'game-changing' drug

DIRECTOR: Mary Harney
DIRECTOR: Mary Harney

Roisin Burke

India's largest biotechnology company, where former Irish health minister Mary Harney is a director, has brought a 'breakthrough' drug to market.

Biocon, a drug developer with revenues of €300m a year, is headed by one of India's wealthiest women and was originally started up in Ireland.

The company will file the drug called Alzumab, a radical new treatment for psoriasis, with the US FDA before the end of the year, according to reports, but it has already launched on the Indian market.

The global market for drug treatment of the itchy and difficult to treat skin affliction is estimated to be worth €5.5bn.

"The launch of Alzumab is a major breakthrough for Biocon," Mary Harney told the Sunday Independent. "Psoriasis patients will benefit enormously from this novel and path-breaking drug.

"It doubles the remission time for half the cost. This new therapy was both innovated and developed by Biocon and will be available to patients globally in the future."

Biocon is headed by Indian pharma tycoon Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who got her start in business through a collaboration with a Cork company in the Seventies, making industrial enzymes. Biocon emerged out of that early business.

Said to be worth around €450m, Ms Mazumdar-Shaw was a Ms Harney appointee to Science Foundation Ireland a decade ago. She is Ireland's honorary consul in Bangalore and has honorary doctorates from Trinity and UCC for her scientific achievements.

"This is a breakthrough innovation and it has potential to make huge global impact," Ms Mazumdar-Shaw said. Biocon is expected to partner with a big international name to deliver the drug worldwide. It partners with giant firm Roche on another venture.

Ms Harney makes a mere €10,000-€15,000 annually from her non-executive board membership at Biocon, however. She attends its meetings several times a year at its headquarters in Bangalore. She doesn't have a shareholding, she told us.

Biocon has customers in 75 countries across the globe.

Ms Harney continues to be a director at Euro Insurances, where her husband Brian Geoghegan is involved. She is an independent director at animal health company Ward Biotech and its related research company. She also has an involvement with an emerging technology firm.

The former health minister and minister for enterprise, trade and employment has advised overseas companies on accessing Irish and European markets, including a US software company looking at a presence here. Insurance, health, consumer, food and innovation are her areas of interest.

Sunday Independent

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