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Pall Rides Biotech Wave in India, Opens New Center for Proteomics Processing

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Pall last week opened a 20,000-square-foot process proteomics center in Bangalore, India, a reflection both of the exploding life science and biotech market in the region and the company’s accelerating protein-purification business.
 
East Hills, NY-based Pall has two other facilities in India, including its Indian headquarters in Mumbai. The Life Sciences Center of Excellence is the third such center Pall created. The company also has a similarly sized center in Cergy, France, for protein purification, and a 4,000-square-foot facility in Woburn, Mass., for protein purification and cellular therapy.
 
The Bangalore center is equipped with a Surface Enhancement Laser Desorption/Ionization mass spectrometer, a MALDI-TOF mass spec, chromatography systems, and columns.
 
It is manned by about 60 scientists, who will be conducting research primarily for drug and biotechnology firms. The center also plans to work collaboratively with academic institutions, said Ken Harris, the president of the biosciences division at Pall.
 
About 7,000 square feet of the center will be devoted to protein purification and customer training, the company said. The same amount of space will be used for pharmaceutical and biotherapeutic validation work, with the rest of the space used for administrative, and sales, and marketing operations.
 
Pall had originally announced the creation of the center a year ago in the midst of an eruption of biotech research in Asia in general, and in India in particular [See PM 03/30/06].
 
This week, Harris told ProteoMonitor that India remains an area with explosive growth potential, reiterating the sentiment of other companies with proteomics businesses that have reported double-digit growth in both India and China, and that have responded by increasing their presence in those regions.
 
For instance, in India, Thermo Fisher Scientific opened a customer demonstration laboratory in Mumbai, in November 2005 equipped with mass spectrometers and other instruments.
 
Additionally, in an e-mail to ProteoMonitor this week, an Agilent spokeswoman said that construction has begun on a new company facility there. A year ago Agilent President and CEO Bill Sullivan said the company plans to spend $25 million in India to build a new campus and expand its work force there.
 
According to Harris, “The initiatives within India are exploding. Biotechnology is growing there faster than [in] any other region in the world, and we want to service that market locally. And as we started to explore the market, we discovered a very rich talent pool for supporting our global business.”
 
The Bangalore center offers process proteomics, a method originally developed by Ciphergen to purify and analyze proteins to hasten the development of protein-based therapies, vaccines, and diagnostics.
 
In 2004, when Pall purchased BioSepra, a division of Ciphergen offering chromatography sorbents, the two companies also agreed to collaborate to further develop process proteomics [See PM 10/29/04].
 
While other centers in India offer protein-purification and -analysis services, the differentiating feature of Pall’s Bangalore center is the use of mass spectrometers for process optimization, said Harris.
 
“It allows you to take the chemistry that would be on a sorbent, or a surface, and put that down onto a mass spec, two-dimensional surface, and very quickly you can modify the chemistry conditions, and focus in on the best chemistry or the best conditions that will give you the highest recovery and highest purity,” Harris said. “And obviously the SELDI allows you to put the chemistry on a chip which is quite a bit more flexible than playing with sorbent beads.”
 

“It’s probably the best equipped service lab in India right now.”

The mass spec approach he added, “allows you to run multiple experiments to fine tune your conditions.”
 
He declined to identify the vendors for the instruments in the Bangalore center — aside from the SELDI mass spec from Ciphergen — saying, “We’ve built a center to be as flexible as is practical. So, our customers will be fairly used to or knowledgeable about the instruments we’re using or have access to.”
 
In addition to capitalizing on the biotech boom in India, the center is looking to cash in on the protein-purification services business, “one of the fastest growing sectors in our total business,” Harris said. He declined to provide further financial details but said the growth has been “enough so that we’ve made these investments in the multiple sites.”
 
The surge in demand, he said, is being driven by good manufacturing practice requirements for drugs and therapeutics. Because of the costs involved, drug makers and biotech firms are outsourcing the work.
 
“It’s fairly cost prohibitive to set up that type of expertise in-house,” he said. “And I think they prefer the regulatory agencies to see an outside party.”
 
In addition to its process proteomics business housed in its Life Sciences division, Pall’s Industrial division targets the aerospace and microelectronics industries, and the food and water safety and energy markets.
 
In fiscal 2006, which for Pall ended last July 31, the company posted total sales of $2.02 billion, including $800 million in Life Sciences sales. The Industrial division recorded sales of $1.22 billion
 
In proteomics, the company has been more of a role player than a mover and shaker, though it is one of 17 companies that were recently named to the Human Proteome Organization’s Industry Advisory Board [See PM 04/26/07].
 
Its focus in the proteomics business has been narrow: sample prep and protein purification. “We’re not in the business of protein discovery. That’s not our forte,” Harris said.
 
That business, he said,represents a market opportunity of about $1 billion, of which Pall has a 5- to 7-percent share.
 

“One of our key strategic initiatives is in the R&D initiative for protein chemistries and protein methodologies,” Harris said. “What we see coming out of both our Cergy facility and now out of India will be both applications, improvements as well as novelty improvements and base chemistry.”