A Glitazar In The Sky

AN UNFINISHED AGENDA: My Life In The Pharmaceutical Industry
By Dr Anji Reddy
Portfolio Penguin | Pages: 270 | Rs. 699

Our generation are the first human beings who can actually be cured of our diseases; our forefathers could, at best, be relieved of their symptoms, nothing more. It all began with the development of penicillin in 1939, and since then we’ve come, with amazing speed, to the mapping of the human genome, and all the wonderful possibilities that it now opens up for us. The biblical lifespan of “three score years and ten” is now a thing of the past; our children will possibly live twice as long as that. And for all of this, we have to thank the global pharma industry.

Advertisement opens in new window

But, inevitably, there’s a price we have to pay. The research labs of global pha­rma companies seem to be deliberately distanced from their corporate offices, so that the research scientists shouldn't think too much about corporate matters and the corporate guys shouldn’t get distracted by medical or human issues. Which is what makes Dr Anji Reddy’s memoirs so interesting— because he was a research scientist who, in his own idealistic fashion, tried to buck the system.

An Unfinished Agenda is the story of a man who started life as a chemist in a public sector drug company (riding an old scooter, as he tells us, with a headlight that didn’t work). At the age of 45, he set up Dr Reddy’s Labs, with the vis­ion of providing affordable medicines to the public. By the early 2000s, his com­p­any had become “the pill factory to the world” (a Forbes magazine cover headline), supplying bulk drugs to many of the world’s major generic pharma com­pan­ies and, in the process, helping to posit­ion India as a global pharma player.

Advertisement opens in new window
If one of these 'molecules' had made it to a patent, it could have become a 'blockbuster drug', with sales of $1 bn-plus.

The most interesting part of the book, however, are the chapters on the company’s efforts to move up the value chain to the discovery of new molecules—efforts that came tantalisingly close to success, with two new molecules for the treatment of diabetes. These two ‘glitazar’ molecules went right up to the clinical development stage, but got tripped up at the last regulatory step (a scenario described in a chapter poignantly titled ‘The Graveyard of the Glitazars’). If one of those glitazars had made it to a patent, it would have arguably become a ‘blockbuster drug’, with sales of $1 billion-plus. (To put that in perspective, the company’s total turnover today, across approximately 250 products, is $2.5 billion.)

The book has the feel of a scientist’s personal diary, rather than that of a slick business autobiography like Richard Bra­­nson’s Losing My Virginity or Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, but that is perhaps its charm, giving us a feel of the author’s essential simplicity. It is peppe­red with fascinating scientific anecdotes about people like Dr Roy Vagelos, the visionary ex-Merck chairman; Dr Yellapragada Subba­row, the legendary biochemist who hel­ped develop the world’s first chemotherapy drug and the first tet­racycline antibiotic; and Dr Husain Zaheer who, along with Dr Inder Kacker, developed methaqualone, the only new molecule ever to come out of India (which was, ironically, swiped and patented by a US drug firm, and went on to become a blockbuster drug of the 1960s).

Ultimately, of course, Dr Anji Reddy's agenda remained unfinished: the new molecule that he dreamed of never happened in his lifetime. He died of cancer just one week after the first dummy of this book was printed.

READ MORE IN:
Next Story : In The Streets Of Dacca
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
REVIEW
Review
A.C.N. Nambiar was Azad Hind envoy in Nazi Germany, an associate of Bose and Nehru and later a diplomat. His glittering life has been told at last.
MAGAZINE March 16, 2017
Review
A gimlet-eyed Gulzar deals with intolerance, a gloating media, persistent injustices, and a failed national project. All are skewered in startling imagery.
MAGAZINE March 16, 2017
Review
This slim novel stews in the passionate juice of wronged love. The protagonist, symbolically wedded to deep Krishna love, rages on.
MAGAZINE March 09, 2017
Review
A Pakistani immigrant family returns to Karachi from Chicago. For the children, it’s a bewildering can of worms, as well as a sentimental education.
MAGAZINE March 09, 2017
Review
An able administrator, Sreedharan was a stickler for integrity, efficiency and good business practices. This non-eulogistic account serves us well.
MAGAZINE March 09, 2017
read more>>>
Advertisement

OUTLOOK TOPICS :

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

or just type initial letters