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As Proteomics Gains Ground in Asia, Pall, Others Take Steps to Expand; Is Market Ready for Them?


As biotechnology facilities continue to grow in India and China, proteomics technologies have begun gaining traction there both as R&D components for drug discovery and as part of discovery research in academic centers.

US-based proteomic tool vendors have noticed this trend — not to mention recently enacted intellectual property laws in India meant to woo multinationals — and have taken steps over the past year to gain footholds in those emerging markets.

Most recently, Pall opened a Center of Excellence in Bangalore, India, which will include a process proteomics laboratory, offer validation services, and provide hands-on training for local scientists.

This investment comes on the heels of similar moves by PerkinElmer, which in February opened a new technology center in Shanghai, China, and has disclosed plans to grow its business in the region in coming months.

But these companies' forays are tempered by other proteomic powerhouses, most notably Waters, which holds out hope that Asia has the "potential" to be an important market for proteomic instrumentation and services, but said that it's not ready for any significant investment from the company just yet in that application.

"As much as we like to talk about the growth in India and China, there's a lot more business in the northeastern United States than in either one of those countries."

According to the 2005 Indian Pharmaceutical and Health care Market Annual Review, the Indian pharmaceutical industry is growing at a rate of nearly 9 percent annually. In China, the more than $20 billion pharmaceutical market will continue to experience double-digit growth rates into 2010, according to a report from the Gold Triangle Organization.

Shaping a Future Market

Despite the bluster surrounding these emerging markets, companies like Pall, PerkinElmer, and Waters do not disclose hard numbers to either support or disprove the theory that proteomics is growing in India and China. As such, reports of market sizes or trends tend to be anecdotal. Still vendors see a market, albeit at different stages of maturity.

Though India's key driver for biotech companies continues to be its generic pharmaceutical industry, which uses high-performance liquid chromatography and small molecule and chemical testing equipment, but not proteomic equipment and services, proteomics is beginning to play a bigger role, said Vinay Joban, the general manager of Pall Life Sciences India.

"In India, you do see a lot of proteomics discovery work, especially around the Bangalore and Hyderabad regions," said Joban.

One thing that has helped proteomic tool vendors keep their eye on India is a series of intellectual property laws that were established in the country in January 2005, which "have really encouraged multinationals to go and look into India as one country where they will be protected in IP," said Joban. "It's gradually taking shape. People are taking faith, and [patent piracy is] less of an issue."

Aside from the Bangalore Center of Excellence, Pall has process proteomics Service Centers in Woburn, Mass., and in Cergy, France. All of them employ BioSepra process chromatography technology, which was acquired from Ciphergen in December 2004 (see ProteoMonitor 12/10/2004), and Ciphergen's Protein Chip technology.

Pall's Bangalore Center of Excellence will also offer validation services, which are important in terms of enabling drug companies to get approvals for new drugs, said Holly Haughney, vice president of Pall's biopharmaceuticals marketing in Asia. In addition, the center will offer hands-on training for scientists.

"In India, while people are very technically astute on a theoretical basis, we find that they are a bit lacking in terms of hands-on training with some of the equipment," said Haughney. "The center will help people to become better at the hands-on aspects."

Pall's Bangalore Center of Excellence will employ about 60 people in total, including 30 people who are new to the company, said Vinay. Most of the people will be hired locally, he added.

Pall is also planning on building a Center of Excellence in Shanghai this year. That center will focus more around validation and training than proteomics, Haughney said.

"In India, you do see a lot of proteomics discovery work, especially around the Bangalore and Hyderabad regions."

"China is more of a process market," said Haughney. "At this point, the things they do focus on [are in] large-scale production. China has more of a domestic market at this point, though they also seem to be gearing up for export. We're starting to see more activity in China in the biotech area, but at this point they're less into R&D and more into large-scale production."

Feeding the Biomarker Machine

PerkinElmer is another proteomic tool vendor that has identified Asia as an emerging market. In February, the company opened a new technology center in Shanghai that is equipped with the company's latest analytical sciences and molecular medicine products, including BioExpression tools, Luminex platforms, and the newly acquired Agilix technologies (see ProteoMonitor 3/9/2006).

This year, PerkinElmer plans to expand its sales, services, and technical support infrastructure in India and China, according to Mary Duseau, director of sales for PerkinElmer's molecular medicine group.

Duseau said that though there is not a lot of drug discovery happening in the Pacific rim, the area's basic research laboratories are adopting technologies for DNA and protein biomarker-discovery research.

"In genomics and proteomics, the market in the academic environment is a tremendous opportunity," said Duseau. "Basic biomarker tools will absolutely be applicable to folks in those markets."

"There are a large number of premier academic institutes that we're currently working with, [and that] we will continue to work with," said Duseau. "As we launch … products in biomarker discovery, whether on the genomic or proteomic side, those are tools that will be critical for [Indian and Chinese academic researchers'] success as well."

'Potential Is There'

Though it is widely known that research spending is increasing in China and India, Waters said these countries are still playing catch-up in terms of bringing research resources to bear fruit.

"In both China and India, you have excellent scientists, and the demand for tools to push science further is going to be there, but the funding levels just haven't been the same in those countries as the funding in other areas" such as North America and Europe, said Gene Cassis, vice president of investor relations at Waters.

Cassis said that Waters' total business with India and China is about the same as a typical single European country.

"The potential is there, but right now the absolute business is still relatively small compared to North America and Europe," he said. "As much as we like to talk about the growth in India and China, there's a lot more business in the northeastern United States than in either one of those countries."

Waters' proteomics business in particular, which makes up less than 10 percent of the company's total business, is experiencing growth outside of India and China, Cassis said.

"The growth in those countries is much more focused on applied technologies, as opposed to new technologies," he said. "The amount of proteomic services in those countries, from my vantage point, is not appreciable."

Though Waters' proteomics business is not significant in India and China, business in other segments of the company is expanding rapidly in those countries. Waters officials said during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call that they plan to invest more in their Asia operations, and to cut expenses elsewhere.

"In India, the key growth is the expansion of the generic drug industry," said Cassis. "HPLC is the workhorse instrument for looking at new formulations, as well as quality assurance and quality control testing."

In China, which has more of an industrial focus, Waters' business is more focused on the chemical industry, including agricultural and automotive chemicals, rather than on the life sciences industry, Cassis said.

As far as high-end mass spectrometry systems are concerned, Waters is still at a very early stage of commercialization for those instruments in India and China, Cassis said.

"Right now, when we take a look at that type of business which is used a lot in proteomics, it's mostly outside of the developing areas of India and China," he said. "In terms of the uptake of scientific instruments, we're still at a very early stage [in those countries], compared to where the future potentials would be."

— Tien-Shun Lee ([email protected])

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